Inside Opinion

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Tag: Lakewood police shooting


Cops reacted with honor to killings of their peers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A year after the slaughter of four Lakewood officers in a Parkland coffee shop, the law has seen some big improvements.

The Legislature and voters amended the Washington Constitution to let judges deny bail to defendants facing possible life sentences – as Maurice Clemmons faced even before he killed Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards.

And Washington officials have negotiated far tougher procedures in the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, whose loopholes allowed Arkansas to export Clemmons to Washington without much warning – then cancel its own warrant for his extradition.

But one thing doesn’t appear to have changed: the professional restraint of Puget Sound police officers.

Officers in the region’s various jurisdictions have shot suspects – including Clemmons himself – in the aftermath of the cop-killings a year ago. Some have suspected them of being quicker to defend themselves with deadly force after seeing four of their fellow cops gunned down in the Parkland café and two more killed in separate incidents.

But that’s selective perception. Officers were using force – with justification and occasionally without – before Clemmons. They haven’t become trigger-happy since then.
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Bail amendment a measured response to massacre

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

This year’s general election ballot would most certainly be one question shorter had Maurice Clemmons not killed four Lakewood police officers in cold blood last fall.

On Nov. 2, voters will decide Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220 which proposes to give judges greater leeway in denying bail to defendants.

The measure – also known as the Remember Lakewood Constitutional Amendment – probably would have never made it out of the Legislature but for the fact that Clemmons murdered cops six days after bailing out of jail.

But its origin in the crimes’ angry aftermath isn’t a strike against it. Much debate and compromise went into crafting the proposed amendment, which is far more measured than proponents’ opening offer.

Law enforcement and Gov. Chris Gregoire first wanted to give judges sweeping authority to deny bail whenever they deemed the public at risk – a standard similar to the federal system’s. The Legislature pushed back with proposals to target only those dangerous defendants charged with the most serious crimes.

Legislators and the governor met in the middle with a proposed amendment that would apply only to those defendants charged with the most serious felonies.

Sponsors estimate the amendment could affect roughly 4,100 of the more than 53,000 criminal defendants prosecuted each year in Washington state – but only if a judge first finds “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant has a “propensity for violence” and poses a “substantial likelihood” of danger to the community.

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Officers’ families hurt their own cause

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The South Sound has showered the families of four slain Lakewood police officers with love, support and money. But the community’s generosity is not so spent that it can’t afford one more gift: the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s accept at face value what the officers’ families say their motivation was for threatening $182 million in claims against Pierce County for the officers’ deaths.

The families announced the claims on Thursday, apparently unaware they were about to touch off a firestorm. The claims shocked Pierce County residents. For many of those residents, word of the pending claims came with an implied message: You didn’t do enough to honor the officers’ memories and comfort their families.

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

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

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Maurice Clemmons and the mystery bullet

For me, an abiding mystery of the Maurice Clemmons case is how he managed to keep moving for two days after shooting four Lakewood police officers last November.

Greg Richards, one of the victims, shot Clemmons in the gut that day with a large-caliber police handgun designed to wreak massive havoc inside the human body. I would have expected not merely a disabling but an exquisitely agonizing wound.

Most of us figured Clemmons would be found dead somewhere after sustaining that hit. Yet he got himself patched up (with duct tape, no less) and not only managed to keep running

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One Clemmons is enough; fix that compact

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In attempting to deal with cop-killer Maurice Clemmons, Washington state got shamelessly played by Arkansas.

When Arkansas officials shipped Clemmons here in 2004, they somehow neglected to inform Washington’s corrections people that he’d been convicted of robbery, theft and burglary in that state in 1989.

Then, after Clemmons turned violent last spring, the folks in Little Rock suddenly lost interest in enforcing the terms of his original parole. They withdrew their warrant for his extradition, allowing him to post bail in November, walk out of jail in Tacoma – and gun down four Lakewood police officers.

Washington put a hold on further parolee transfers from Arkansas until better safeguards are in place. And now Washington’s in the wrong?

Apparently so, according to the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, an agreement that governs the transfer of parolees among all 50 states.
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Deputy is domestic violence’s collateral damage

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

It was the kind of call that law enforcement officers dread, but it is sadly all too common: a domestic.

One family member is hurting or threatening another, and someone calls 911. Emotions are running high, and alcohol or drugs may be involved. One or more of the parties may be armed.

Every call is a step into the unknown for those who respond.

Four days before Christmas, Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell and Sgt. Nick Hausner experienced every law enforcement officer’s nightmare: a domestic call turned very, very bad. They were trying to escort a “drunk and belligerent” man with a history of domestic violence from a family member’s home when he pulled out a gun and began shooting.
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A day to honor four officers – and all officers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

May 15 might be the most important national commemoration almost no one has ever heard of. Peace Officers Memorial Day, as it’s called, is dedicated to police fallen in the line of duty.

It doesn’t begin to get the attention it deserves. Nor, ordinarily, do they.

Today will be an exception as many thousands of people honor the four Lakewood officers who were gunned down in Parkland a week ago Sunday. Sgt. Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards will be given due honor and tribute in the community they served and at the Tacoma Dome.

Too many people look at a police officer and see only the uniform, the badge and the gun. Let’s talk about the humanity of these four.

Greg Richards, 42, left a wife and three children. He played drums in a rock band, Locked Down. Music was a large part of his life; he’d played in the marching band of his California high school. His cheerfulness earned him a nickname: “Perma-grin.”
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