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UPDATED: Say it ain’t so, Lakewood police survivors

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on April 9, 2010 at 11:41 am |
April 9, 2010 9:21 pm

UPDATE: At least three of the families have now decided to abandon their claims for damages against Pierce County due to the public outcry.

Never in the history of the South Sound, perhaps, have so few squandered so much good will in so little time.

Check out the online comments on Friday’s story about the $192 million claim against Pierce County filed by the survivors of the four Lakewood officers killed in Parkland last November. I can’t remember when I’ve seen our readers express so much raw disappointment about a local event.

There may not have been a soul in the region – outside of hardened criminals – who didn’t sympathize with these families after the officers were shot. Many South Sounders donated money to accounts set up for the survivors. People who gave $10 or $20 or $50 out of meager incomes now feel had.

Accusations of greed may or may not be fair. The families now claim they are seeking the money only to force changes in policy. Nevertheless, any money they won would come – directly or indirectly – out of the county’s revenues, most of which are used for law enforcement and criminal justice.

The logical problem with the claims, as I see it, is the presumption that better monitoring of Maurice Clemmons’ phone calls was a) feasible and b) likely to have stopped Maurice Clemmons. The Sheriff’s Department has estimated it would take $45 million a year and 50 full-time employees to review all tapes of all phone calls made from the county jail.

Budgeting means prioritizing. Would we rather be spending that kind of money putting deputies on the streets or listening to taped phone calls?

The problem with Clemmons is not that he looked uniquely bad; it was that he looked too much like a lot of other really bad guys, of whom there are far too many in this area. Some of these criminals routinely rant – generically, as Clemmons did – about killing people who’ve gotten in their way, cops included. How was anyone to know that this particular thug was the one who would actually walk into a café and do it?

The real complaint here is that the Sheriff’s Department didn’t have an unlimited budget and a crystal ball.

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