What took so long?
And a number of other questions are asked of the most recent fatal shooting by officers in the Lakewood Police Department per the Tacoma News Tribune editorial.Photo Credit: TNT Staff Photo by Peter Haley
What took so long given when Patrick O’Meara was shot dead by Lakewood Police in Tillicum, June 18, 2013, six days later the public knew, in detail, what happened those minutes before midnight including the fact that O’Meara was wielding a toy gun?
TNT Editorial Staff write, “Under most police department guidelines, use of lethal force is permitted if officers feel their lives are in danger.”
However, with regards Lakewood’s 16-page Use of Force Policy, 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” – a finding of the ACLU following its investigation of police departments across the country.
Neither is there a 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.”
And there is not – at least not as much as it should be – an emphasis upon 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.”
Yet such changes, as directed by the Department of Justice, were implemented in December of 2013 within Seattle’s Use of Force Policy – outlining for officers when force is appropriate, how much is necessary, and when it is not.
Among the new requirements that were adopted for Seattle police officers: “If circumstances allow, attempt to de-escalate tense situations to reduce the need for force. When using force is unavoidable, the policy cautions officers to use only the force necessary to make the arrest, and says that their conduct before force was used may be considered by the department in determining whether force was appropriate.
“The findings of the Justice Department’s investigation echoed concerns that had been raised for years by Police Department auditors, a review board, blue-ribbon commissions and plaintiff’s attorneys, among others, who have complained that officers escalate to force too quickly.”
TNT Editorialists further question why “a case like this (doesn’t) cry out for an oversight board that includes community members with no ties to law enforcement” as opposed to, or and in addition to, “the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office investigating the shooting to determine if it was justified”?
Better yet It’s time to disband the city’s existing police oversight board – the Public Safety Advisory Committee – which has been studying missing shopping carts for over a year as directed by the Lakewood City Council – thus demonstrating “ lack of 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.”
“Cry out?” “Explosion of anger”?
Oh it’s there. Simmering.
The Director of Public Safety, Sherwood, Oregon, Ronald C. Ruecker wrote in “The Police Chief”:
“Our communities cry out when use of force is juxtaposed against the community’s expectation of necessity. They reasonably ask, was there another way that officers could have defused the situation? Was the use of force consistent with the level of threat confronting the officers?
“The citizens have the right to expect that the use of force is the option of last resort for law enforcement officers.”
I love the idea of a community member board over seeing the Lakewood Police Dept. and the Prosecutor’s office. From my little experience with both agencies: I have a lot of questions about their practices. The community board should not involve the City of Lakewood! I would love to on such a board!
David Wilson says
“From my little experience with both agencies”. That is just what we need, a citizen with no experience or training or understanding of the laws of Washington State making suggestions or decisions which could affect the lives of officers and there families.
As long-time advocate and supporter for our police (in general) recent reports across the nation are making me rethink total support vs. incident evaluation. I never understood why officers couldn’t do a better job of aiming to disable rather than using massive volleys aimed to kill. But in this Lakewood case I was truly dismayed that under the conditions, as we were to understand through news media reports, that officers couldn’t have exercised restraint and waited out a situation where a culprit was isolated at the top of a stack of lumber. Suspicions increased with the long delay in filing reports which, I would assume, are expected within hours while memories are still fresh and accurate.
Don Gaines says
It’s an interesting concept – having a community board of people who know nothing of law enforcement or legal issues oversee what police do and what their policies are. Frankly, just because we don’t have some text in our policies that the ACLU finds in several other cities policies doesn’t mean ours are bad – it just means they are different. University Place contracts with the Pierce County Sheriff’s department for police services. I attended their free 13-week Community Academy course last year to better understand what our police do. If those with simmering anger took this class, they might simmer down. It should be a REQUIRED course for any community board. The worst thing possible would be to have an oversight board consisting of ill-informed community members.
David Anderson says
“The worst thing possible would be to have an oversight board consisting of ill-informed community members” – it’s what we have now in the Public Safety Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Kenneth E. Towns (Widow) says
I never see anything ever referencing the incident at Lakewood Town Center where the Lakewood policeman was on duty but actually messing around in the parking lot with his wife, daughter, civillian ride along, and possibly other friends who unjustly attacked and caused such horrendous injuries to my 60 year old husband, a 100 percent service connected disabled Vietnam Veteran when he was simply trying to park and go into a restaurant for supper. The results of that beating cost my husband his life!!! Why? Because the Lakewood PD and the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s executed a huge cover up and moved the cop out of Lakewood to another location! I wish someone would talk to me and let’s get the truth out once and for all! His wife, children, grandchildren, and friends have been left with so many unanswered questions, and a pain so deep that nothing will ever bring relief. Even writing this much brings anxiety of the possibilities of repercussions for speaking out! There is definitely a huge problem in this city with this police force. Something needs to be done or one day the only people left here will be the police!
David Wilson says
Mrs. Kenneth E. Towns (Widow) says
If they would have had cameras on, we would have had the much needed evidence to prove the brutality waged against my husband and myself that cost him his life as I wrote about above. Pretty words lumped together are fine for those who do not take the time to research the reality of what has been happening here. No doubt there are some good police in our town, but you must remember there is another side to that coin. Also this man in the article started up this police force so he wants it to shine in a positive light. A culmination of 111 years between my husband and I had not had us in confrontation with the police, yet the police side chose to brutally attack two innocent and disabled people with absolutely no justification or provocation for it, and as a result an honorable man who served this nation in combat through the Vietnam War through 2 tours and came home 100 percent disabled but alive lost his life unnecessarily at the hands of a Lakewood cop. Note this : That very same cop was conveniently moved out to another police force in America before the court actions were even concluded. Where is the justice for our family as we will always have to deal with this tragedy for the remainder of our lives?