Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Manos’ alleged crime is a bitter betrayal

Post by Brian O'Neill on Feb. 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm with 8 Comments »
February 9, 2012 4:43 pm

In early December of 2009, about a week after four police officers were killed, I worked a shift in Lakewood. Like many other cops, I had shown up to support my shell-shocked colleagues and to allow them some time off to grieve. In reality, we all were drawn to the Lakewood station by our need to make sense of the tragedy, to talk through the hurt, and to begin the healing process among friends and colleagues.

Lakewood police station/ Seattle Times photo

Between calls for service we spent most of the day outside the station, mingling with a large crowd of people who, like us, were attempting to process the terrible events of the last week. This spontaneous community gathering was both stunning and, in my experience, unprecedented. People shook our hands and hugged us. They brought food and drinks. They encased the station in balloons and flowers, making an impromptu shrine for the fallen officers.

And they donated money – a lot of money. These donations, intended for the children of Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens, and Greg Richards, was a gift meant to express the community’s profound appreciation for the protection these cops provided them, even at the cost of their lives. It was a bitter time, but with a unique sweetness as well.

Enter Skeeter Manos. This veteran Lakewood cop was recently arrested for diverting a large sum of the fallen officers’ donations to his own secret account. Manos is alleged to have received approximately $151,000 in funds, given to him as treasurer of the police guild, and used it to live a lavish lifestyle. His first appearance in federal court on Wednesday is the next step in the lengthy investigation and a continuation in what must be a very painful process for his department.

For myself, the very idea that a fellow cop would be capable of this level of betrayal makes me sick to my stomach. The details of the investigation hold no possible explanation for Manos’ alleged actions other than simple greed. Luxurious vacations, high-rolling casino trips and all the material goods said to have been purchased with the embezzled funds were apparently sufficient reason to steal from the public, fellow officers and the children of his slain comrades. The shame of such a crime is a hole with no bottom.

I am not naive  - naivete is a short-lived phenomenon in police work. I recognize that people are capable of making terrible choices, and cops are no different. But there is also an unspoken code of brotherhood (and sisterhood) in law enforcement, an ideology that best expresses itself in the action of rushing to the aid of another officer in trouble. In a word, we look out for each other.

This is why the federal indictment against Skeeter Manos, for illegally diverting public donations meant for the children of his fallen comrades, is a punch to the gut. If proven (and we must afford Manos the same right to trial as anyone else), this betrayal of trust will provide front page fodder for the vocal minority who already possess a low opinion of police officers. Worse, it has the capacity to undo much of the progress made, since the shooting, in bridging the gap between police officers and the citizens whom they protect. I truly hope it does not.

This is not an enjoyable column to write. My procrastination over the last day had as much to do with my sense of revulsion at the allegations as it did with an utter lack of words to express this sense. However, it would be disingenuous to continue to write columns defending the actions of police officers and then remain silent on such a reprehensible act.

I certainly hope that a fellow police officer did not commit this crime, this naked act of betrayal. But if he did then he must be held accountable, and cops will have to work that much harder to regain the public trust.

 

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. I’ve found police officers to be nice, very useful people
    who I’d give directions to, tell about this towns good eats
    and about the drunk driver who went down the other street.
    They are not cartoon superheroes and we’d better stop treating
    them that way. As in a pharmacy it’s check, check, double check.

  2. Chippert says:

    Where there is money, there is greed. Take a look back at the number of “soccer moms” (and dads) who have been arrested for embezzling fund meant for the youngsters who play the sport, the number of non-profits hit by trusted keepers of the funds who could not resist the temptation to dip in and take some for themselves. Unfortunately this just proves that policemen are human and really very little different than anyone else outside of their penchant for law enforcement. How many stories have we read in the news about dirty cops on the take? This, of course, is not to say that every cop is dirty. Indeed I would suspect by the nature of the job, the number of police that would be tempted to steal in this manner is even lower than in the general public of good people subverted by the lure of cash.

    Brian, this story should be a wake-up call that those who protect and serve must be watched by those who are served, and those who deal with money must be watched by everyone. We want to trust, but when this kind of thing happens, the black eye is even more glaring than usual.

  3. DavidAnderson says:

    The signature of the President of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, allegedly forged, is on the secret account maintained by the charged fellow officer, with the result that he has been placed on paid administrative leave.

    He ran for state legislature in 2010. This is what he had to say about gambling:

    In a letter to the Editor of The Suburban Times on Feb.24, 2010, he wrote, “I am against banning our lawful casinos because they simply do not cause problems. With all of my contacts in domestic disputes over 14 years you would think I have ever heard a fight or assault happened ‘because he was gambling’ or ‘because he lost our savings at a casino.’ I have never heard it and have never heard of anyone else who works these streets in any police department ever heard it.”

    In an op-ed piece on August 14, 2008 (TNT), he stated “Police are rarely called to the four small casinos, and not one of the officers sharing hundreds of years of experience can remember ever dealing with a situation involving negative effects from gaming in the home.”

    Former Lakewood Deputy Mayor John Arbeeny writes:

    How many people addicted to gambling does it take to have a negative impact on a city of 60,000?

    Just one.

    How much more so with potentially hundreds or thousands located in and around Lakewood?

    This is the same police department that went all out in throwing their support behind four local casinos in Lakewood stating that there was no evidence of negative impact on the community from gambling nor any crime associated with these casinos.

    Wrong on all counts. It’s ironic that one of their own was trapped in the web of gambling addiction.

    If something that dastardly can he perpetrated by such a person in the public trust, what about the many who are below the radar and whose families and friends suffer that same in silence? Now Lakewood finds out first-hand how horrible it is to have an addicted gambler in the “family”…..an impact that is now nation-wide.

    How much did this one man’s gambling addiction affect 60,000 Lakewood residents? How about the opinions of 300,000,000 US citizens who read about it?

    Easy money and gambling: a fatal attraction.

  4. To make a leap that the theft of the money was caused by a “gambling addiction” is rather big. There is no evidence (at this time) that there is a causation or correlation between the two.

    Regardless of the fact that labeling gambling as an “addiction” displaces the blame for a person’s actions. I’m sorry, but blaming a casino for someone’s life choices is just wrong, no worse than blaming the butcher for selling red meat.

  5. DavidAnderson says:

    No need to be sorry Gandalf. The link between gambling and crime exists. Even within the police department. Despite their protestations to the contrary.

  6. rivitman says:

    It’s been a really tough couple of years for law enforcement in this county.

    This is a hard blow for them, but they have my confidence. They will get past this and keep doing their work in this place that seems to have more than it’s fair share of craziness and mayhem.

  7. Sigh. David, I wasn’t making any claim that a link to crime and gambling doesn’t exist, I said that in THIS case, there is no apparent correlation between the two, other than the fact the accused took several trips to Vegas. There is no public evidence that he took the money solely for any gambling “addiction”. He gambled with it, but also spent a lot of it on “toys”. I could make a counter case that his alleged theft was to fuel a toy addiction.

    What I find almost as reprehensible as someone stealing is someone coming along to use the crime as an excuse to deny citizens their rights to further their own pet causes. Much like the anti-gun crowd dancing in the blood of a shooting to push for more gun laws.

  8. DavidAnderson says:

    Gandalf,

    The officer charged with the crime had a salary of $93,000. He’d been hauled into court twice previously for non-payment of vehicle and medical bills. He withdrew $4,000 at the Lakewood Macau casino (not trips to Vegas solely) alone. You can’t buy a refrigerator and toys on that kind of salary? And you say there’s “no apparent correlation” between the embezzlement of the money and the propensity to gamble it away?

    He only bought one refrigerator.

    “I could make a counter case that his alleged theft was to fuel a toy addiction,” you write.

    So go ahead. Make your case.

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