President Barack Obama ’s pledge Friday to send “whatever” federal help Dallas officials might need after an attack that left five police officers dead could send a wave of agents and experts to Texas, but it doesn’t guarantee that local officials will get everything they ask for.
Obama, speaking from Poland where he is attending a NATO summit , said he spoke with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to “convey the deepest condolences of the American people.” The president said he also conveyed that “the federal government will provide whatever assistance Dallas may need as it deals with this tremendous tragedy.”
Later Friday, Rawlings told MSNBC that city officials have already been working with federal law enforcement agencies. But, as of now, Texas state officials said the Dallas Police Department is still leading the investigation.
Mike Spicer , a security expert who spent 30 years in law enforcement with the California Highway Patrol, and also served in the Coast Guard Investigative Service, said Obama can unleash the “power of the office … to make things happen.”
The Obama administration could proclaim the situation in Dallas is hindering the safety and security of Dallas residents, which would allow them to send funds along with investigators, extra officers, and experts to the Texas city, Spicer said.
Obama and federal officials could send the FBI to conduct a full probe into Thursday night’s mass murder of five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest. And the federal government could help local entities pay law enforcement officers to help with the investigation and to secure future public events, he said.
To that end, Obama and federal law enforcement officials may be forced to send federal agents to Dallas or other cities to help with patrolling during future shootings-related protests, Spicer said.
“They might be needed to not only keep the protesters safe, but also the police officers,” he said.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have highly specialized investigators that might help Dallas police determine just what happened and what motivated the shooter or shooters.
Federal operatives from forensic experts to intelligence analysts have been deployed to the sites of other recent mass shootings like the ones in San Bernardino , California, and Orlando , Florida. Obama has the authority to send them to Dallas.
The FBI also used its authority under terrorism-related provisions to unlock the mobile phone of one of the California shooters , and that could be required in the Dallas case.
But a crisis does not always equate to federal authorities automatically granting local officials’ request.
To that end, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott ’s request last month for $5 million in aid from Washington following the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre which killed 49 people. He requested the funds to help meet costs from the law enforcement response to the attack, as well as the subsequent emergency medical response, social services, and counseling.
“The only instance in which this administration has received a terrorist-related request for a federal state of emergency was the Boston marathon bombing, which was an ongoing incident at the time of the request,” Rafael Lemaitre, FEMA’s director of public affairs, told Tampa’s Patch.com . “It is extremely uncommon to make a specific request like this for an event that is not ongoing.”
The White House and Justice Department did not immediately provide details on just what federal resources Obama might send to Dallas.