Monday, November 30, 2009

Thoughts and Insights on Sunday's Tragedy and Loss in Lakewood, Washington

This is a guest post by Daniel Kalbacher.

Over the holiday weekend it appears that a lot of the new media has been obsessed with the Tiger Woods traffic accident saga and to a certain extent who can blame them. He is a major celebrity and role model but also more of the rumors surrounding the incident are beginning to become more interesting people want to know more. Given the fact that it was the holiday weekend there hasn't been any real major news stories up until yesterday to divert attention away from the Tiger Saga but unfortunately there was an incident in Washington State Sunday morning that should be the top story of every news cast but for whatever reason Tiger is still the number one news story and I can't really figure it out but I'll give me perspective on tragic event that cost four police officers their lives. While I didn't intend this post to have any political involvement the more we learn from initial media reports it cannot be without it. The situation is still evolving but I wanted to provide some initial thoughts from someone who works in the field and is affected whenever a fellow officer is killed in the line of duty. Hopefully in the coming days I can follow up on this as more facts become available.

Initial news reports stated that four Lakewood, WA police officers were killed in a coffee shop while they completed paperwork prior to the starting their shit and the suspected gunman/person of interest is still evading authorities. Murders and violent crime occur every day and are a sad reality of our society. Public safety does everything they can in their efforts to keep the citizens they serve safe but they cannot be everywhere and I believe that anyone with any sense and understanding know that they cannot be everywhere and prevent every crime from occurring. Murder is without a doubt something that "shocks the conscious" of our society but I think that when a police officer or any member of our public safety community is murdered in the way these Lakewood officers were hits home to nearly everyone as these are the ones whose job it is to put their lives at risk for the safety of others; something many people would never think of doing as an occupation. Police officers are the individuals we call when we need help for just about anything and look to for protection and when those who protect us cannot even be protected is adds an extra sense of fear into the public as a whole.

On May 6th, 2009 the Fairfax County Police Department and the Sully community experienced a strikingly similar tragedy where two police officers were gun downed their own police station parking lot at the Sully District Police Station. As appears to be the case in Lakewood, Michael Kennedy went to the Sully District Station and opened fire on police in the parking lot with an AK-47 assault rifle after having previous run-ins with law enforcement in both Fairfax and Montgomery County, Maryland authorities. In both cases, police were specifically targeted noting that in Lakewood, the shooter entered and only fired on the four officers who were sitting in the coffee shop. From my understanding, this was not a robbery gone bad or anything else because the shooter walked in and ambushed the officers giving them little opportunity to mount any resistance. Initial reports indicate there was a struggle as the assailant attempted to leave and could have been shot by one of the officers but as of now we know very little in that regard. Sadly, in the Seattle area this is not a rare occurrence as police have been targeted before by violent criminals for no other reason than simply doing their jobs. Less than a month ago, a Seattle police officer was sitting in his patrol car with his trainee when John Monfort allegedly opened fire on the car, killing the officer instantly and only slightly injuring the other. Eventually, Monfort was arrested before he could do even more damage as bomb making material was found in his apartment, arranged almost to kill responding officers and firefighters. I wish we could say that instances like this are a rare occurrence and usually they are when police are specifically targeted but two instances in a little over a month's time span really begs that question of if there is a deeper problem in the area.

As more information is becoming available we may see some political ramifications from this as well and many questions are going to be raised as to whether or not the suspect, Maurice Clemmons should have even been out on the streets to murder these police officers in the first place. Clemmons was convicted and sentenced to 95 years in prison for aggravated robbery which he committed when he was seventeen and then he was granted clemency by then Gov. Huckabee noting his age at the time of the offense. The media reports I've read and seen on TV have mentioned this so it is definietly worthy of mentioning. But that is for another time and place.

Right now, four families are without their loved ones, four parents leave their children behind. They must be kept in everyone's thoughts and prayers. Once the dust settles and things become clear hopefully they'll be answers for this senseless act of violence against those who protect us everyday. Those in public safety are a very unique group of individuals. There are very few, if any jobs to where you can go into work and never come home again. In only a select few occupations in our society can the average, day-to-day functions of a job result in death, especially by targeted violence based on that occupation. All indications point to the fact that this was a targeted execution of police officers and makes those who work in the field think twice about how they do they everyday, "normal" or simple tasks of their job, to include doing paperwork over a cup of coffee. I can say this with such certainty because I will definitely be a little extra cautious the next time I walk into a shop or sit in my cruiser. I read an article once about how police and law enforcement are our society's "sheepdogs" and we protect our communities and citizens or the "sheep" from the "wolves" or violent criminals of our society. The wolves prey on those who cannot protect themselves and attempt to hurt and harm them for no real reason other than their own benefit. If it is it not for those select few, the sheepdogs who go into work everyday and put their lives on their lines everyday for the protection of our society then more violence would be a sad but regularity of our lives.

Whether or not this tragedy could have been avoided is not the real issue but rather keeping the thoughts of these officers, their families and also those who go into work everyday to protect us from violence and the criminals who inflict such violence.

1 comment:

  1. Really good post. I especially appreciate the human tones of recognizing what it means when one lives in a daily world of putting one's life on the line, and the toll that takes on families. My father-in-law was a firefighter, and my husband grew up in that sort of world, and although my own parents were never in danger, as a small child in coal mining West Virginia, we always wondered when (not if) the next siren would go off and who might not make it out.

    There will certainly be political ramifications concerning this (perhaps most obviously Mike Huckabee's political future) but what's more important is trying to grasp the smaller, less media covered realities. Like school shootings, every single community in the United States has police. It's all too easy to imagine it happening to someone you know. It's all too familiar to many already. What are we going to do about it?