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.
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.”