Daniel Covarrubias, “who appeared to be reaching for something in his pocket,” was shot dead by Lakewood police in a lumber yard altercation Tuesday, April 21. “Police haven’t said whether he was armed.”
Covarrubias was the father of seven.
He’s not the first, just the latest.
Shortly before midnight on June 18, 2013 twenty-eight year old Patrick O’Meara was shot dead by Lakewood Police in a felony theft arrest attempt at a residence in the Tillicum community. O’Meara was thought to have been holding a weapon which turned out later to be a cap pistol.
Thirty-seven days later, in a letter to the Mayor and City Council, Matt Kaser, Acting Lakewood City Attorney, suggested a new definition of what constituted a weapon: “any item that appears to be capable of producing bodily harm.”
On May 6, 2009, a Lakewood Police Officer shot and killed Curtis Wetzel in a trailer from which Wetzel’s wife and 8-year-old son had already fled. Wetzel was said to have been armed with a knife.
Those are the fatalities. Non-lethal use of force has, however, also been costly.
February 2, 2015 City Manager John Caulfield – following negotiations of the City Attorney with Multicare to resolve a claim filed last July seeking $285,000 in medical costs – sought authorization by the Council (everything over $50,000 requires the Council’s approval) to pay the $85,000 settlement and thus avoid litigation over the costs of medical care for injuries allegedly suffered by an individual during his arrest by the Lakewood Police Department (LPD).
On August 11, 2007 Darrell Carey was tazered multiple times by a Lakewood Police Officer outside Champions Sports Bar. Lakewood settled for $15,000.
On December 28, 2005 a Lakewood Police Officer was run down by a fellow officer’s car as the two were in hot pursuit of a stolen vehicle. Lakewood settled for $150,000.
On August 11, 2006 a Lakewood Police Officer was sued for “assault and battery, false arrest, excessive force, false imprisonment, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and there was extensive injury suffered requiring several surgeries and long-term care” for an incident outside Chips’ Casino. Lakewood settled for $150,000.
And, in light of all this, on October 21, 2013 Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Wachter promised “to properly consider” Lakewood’s Use of Force Policy.
The policy, in which in all of its 16 pages there is no preamble or mission statement the purpose of which “is to communicate both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the policy agency.”
The policy in which there is no declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances.”
The policy in which it is not emphasized as much as it should be the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options.”
The policy which the Public Safety Advisory Committee – which has been studying missing shopping carts for over a year – on the night of December 4, 2013, in all of 79 words dismissed the Lakewood’s Use of Force Policy along with its lacking preservation-of-all-life-at-all-times principles, and relegated it to the ‘fine-as-is’ category.
It’s time to disband the city’s existing police oversight board “which lacks clout and credibility and replace it with a professionally run board within the city auditor’s office, comprising a smaller, carefully chosen group of highly qualified members” as was done in Portland, Oregon where “police were consistently putting themselves in unnecessarily dangerous situations where they had to shoot their way out.”
If not now, when?