Very early this morning a lone Seattle patrol officer shot and killed Maurice Clemmons, the man suspected of ambushing and murdering four Lakewood officers Sunday as they prepared for their duty day in a coffee shop.

The ambush of the four Lakewood officers occurred at an hour not commonly associated with officer deaths, shortly after eight o'clock on a Sunday morning. The victim officers had apparently convened about their laptops to catch up with their reports. None could have anticipated the attack. Only one was able to put up any kind of fight before dying, but apparently was at least able to wound the bastard.

I've worried about this kind of mass murder of law enforcement officers for years.

Shortly before I retired, I openly speculated that we were on the cusp of a new era where people would increasingly bring the fight to us. Moreover, I said they would prove to be greater threats, less predisposed to "gangsta"-style shooting and actually recognize the significance of sight alignment and trigger control.

I also noted that technology has helped the people who want to kill us develop better eye-hand coordination and tactics via video games and other poor man's combat simulators, and it has given them better means of communicating and coordinating with one another. Television shows such as "C.O.P.S." have provided them greater familiarity with our policies and tactics. They have also become more sophisticated in their choice of weaponry, and are fast becoming better armed than us, accessorizing with everything from laser sights to cop-killer bullets.

Increasing incidences of workplace violence and school shootings fueled my concern, as did a demographic boom of late teens who would come of age between 2005 to 2009. These teens were weaned on a steady diet of desensitizing movies and rap music that advocated cop killings.

More recently, economic stress, racial strife, a resurrection of militia types, and spillover from Mexican cartel activity have made this toxic cocktail even deadlier.

Perhaps most perniciously-at least when it comes to cops-is the concurrent and steady indoctrination of anti-cop sentiments and stereotypes. Allegations of police corruption and its perpetuation through movies such as "Training Day" have afforded those predisposed towards hating cops a perceived justification for doing so.

These cop haters are often composed of those segments of society who have fundamentally failed to hold their own accountable, the likes of whom celebrated the King riots, the O.J. acquittal, and the Oakland shootings.

I believe it follows that there is a nexus between such campaigns against law enforcement and events such as Sunday's murders.

Certainly, it is not unreasonable to ask where is Al Sharpton's outrage over these murders? Or Jesse Jackson's? How about Earl Ofari Hutchinson's? Why are they not demanding justice? Why are they curiously mute at the damages inflicted by a black shooter? And what will Eric Holder have to say as to the motives of this son of a bitch?

Will these murders be classified as hate crimes? Acts of terrorism?

Until recently, attacks that kill as many as four officers have been extremely rare. Since the Newhall (Calif.) shootings of 1970, there had not been an incident in which four officers had been shot and killed in a single incident (although Louisiana sniper and black racist Mark Essex killed a total of four white cops on separate dates in 1973).

This year four officers were killed in Oakland by the same man on the same day in March. This weekend four officers were killed in a Lakewood, Wash., coffee shop. And in Pittsburgh three officers were killed on April 4.

These killings come at a time when cops are themselves theoretically better trained and equipped, and one can reasonably ask how many more might have been killed this year were it not for improved medical intervention.

We ask how something like this can happen, when the miracle is that it doesn't happen more often.

Read the comments that accompany the news coverage of the murders of the Oakland and Lakeland officers. Yes, there are those who express dismay and sorrow. But there are also a number of disheartening comments that attribute some malfeasance on the part of the fallen officers. These comments celebrate the deaths and glorify the suspect. They use the losses as fodder for insipid jokes, perniciously and willfully ignorant of the pain the families of these fallen heroes are going through.

Will any of Hollywood's elite step up to help any of these officers' families?

I doubt it.

For long before Al Pacino invited us to "say goodnight to the bad guy," Hollywood had been holding court for him. From "Little Caesar" to "The Godfather," the list of films featuring criminal icons is long and distinguished. It is the charismatic bad guy who is remembered: Hans Gruber, Hannibal Lector, the Joker. Even heartthrob Leonardo doesn't stand a chance against Daniel Day Lewis' the Butcher in "Gangs of New York."

Away from the stage and screen, it would appear that many actors and actresses are more apt to be found stomping on behalf of such stalwart souls as Mumia Abu Jamal than for law enforcement.

That Hollywood loves to give itself a pat on the back is well known. It'll readily accept responsibility for social change spurred on by movies like "In the Heat of the Night" or "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," and others.

But when it comes to its more sordid legacies, Hollywood remains mute.

Or does it?

Gays decry the portrayal of homosexuals in "Cruising"; Hollywood gives them "Philadelphia." Minorities protest blaxploitation pics and "The Warriors." Hollywood atones with "Antoine Fisher" and "Men of Honor." Women hate more misogynist fare? They are rewarded with "Thelma and Louise."
[PAGEBREAK]Occasionally, a bone is even tossed our way. The occasional compassionate cops make appearances in smaller supporting roles in "Magnolia" and "Anywhere But Here." In fact, I'd be tempted to couch the sentiment lest I appear to be guilty of the same wholesale scapegoating that I believe the entertainment industry is guilty of.

Indeed, there are actors who are conscious of the effects of the roles they play and the legacies of the movies they make. Yaphet Kotto is one. CCH Pounder and Alfre Woodard are two more.

But there are others who I'd be hard-pressed to ever see as sympathetic toward the police. Warren Beatty is one. Oliver Stone is another. It is perhaps most insulting when "actors" such as Ice-T routinely get cast as cops.

Like Hollywood, Madison Avenue is not in the business of being cop advocates, and perhaps it says something to its priorities that it goes out of its way not to be.

In a world where if it bleeds, it leads, our deaths make good copy-and apparently good advertising copy. Benetton, a "conscience"-minded clothing line with a willingness to take "an ethical stand," used death row inmates-including a cop killer-to sell garments. Perhaps in response to the sale of Bonnie and Clyde's death mobile (immortalized in the eponymous 1967 movie), a Texas reverend put the car driven by Texas cop-killers up for sale on Ebay: Reserve price: $10,000.

The Benetton ads were eventually dropped; the car didn't sell. (The ad campaign probably wasn't offensive enough for the industry that gave us heroin chic and scantily-clad Lolitas, and the blue book on the car was probably a little low. If that's the case, the blue book on the thin blue line can't be much more.)

Caveat venditor. (Seller beware.)

Hollywood will never be confused with an ardent supporter of law enforcement-there's too much of an inherent conflict of interest. Our agenda often runs contrary to their artistic sensibilities and predilections. We undermine Robert Downey Jr. We're not forgiving enough to just let Sarah Jane Olson go about her life. We occasionally draw first. And when creative powers such as Aaron Sorkin and Oliver Stone get arrested, they know they'll have the final say, if only through the characters they create and put on screen.

And boy, do they love to put us on screen.

Besides "Training Day," we have "L.A. Confidential," "To Live and Die in L.A." and many other films that show cops as crooked, bad, and homicidal.

The problem with this flood of "ethically-challenged cops" is that they have created a new image of cops, one in which the exception to the rule eclipses the other and becomes the norm in the minds of many.

When combined with the media's pro forma stereotypes of racist officers having their way with everything and everyone from Tawana Brawley to O.J. Simpson, the image percolates and festers in the addled mind of more than one viewer. And more than one cop has paid the price.

In the case of Douglass Township Officer John Stasik III, Andrew Hampton McCrae happened upon the officer as he gassed up his car. McCrae shot him in the head as a "protest" against police brutality, then found himself facing murder charges in New Hampshire.

In Dublin (Calif.), a group of Asian gangstas watched "Menace II Society" before shooting and killing a police officer.

In Texas, a state trooper was killed by some idiot operating under the influence of a Tupac song.

One can only wonder what asinine excuse Maurice Clemmons would have offered for his actions if he hadn't been killed. Already, his family is saying he had diminished mental capacity . Funny how this breed of criminal insanity only seems to hurt those about him, and how cagily he eluded police immediately after the shooting, despite his "emotional distress."

Regardless of the degree to which criminals like Clemmons are emotionally compromised, there can be little doubt that they become emboldened to carry out such acts when they see similar acts romanticized.

The perpetrators and purveyors of films such as the ones mentioned in this blog have historically defended their creative largesse in the name of art. If that contention lacks appeal, then they will defend their product by saying they're holding a mirror to society, that they only reflect the corruption and graft that's endemic to the job.

For an image-conscious group, they're awfully cavalier about how they treat the images of others. Heaven forbid that they should rotate that metaphorical mirror a bit and show a more favorable side of law enforcement.

Perhaps, it's a moot point. Nobody's registering any concern about replicant behavior, unless it inconveniences others outside our profession.

Not that these influences absolve the perpetrators of their responsibilities. But they have doubtlessly made it that much easier for the suspects to take officers' lives with little hesitation and less remorse. Whether or not our deaths are objective goals of the people who conspire to put us in as bad a light as possible, they appear to be agreeable byproducts to the episodes they precipitate.

How long will it be before the next loser-sufficiently tanked up on "Training Day" and meth and the rhetoric of cop-hating militants-decides to make his point with a gun?

To add insult to fatal injury, officers' deaths can become sources of celebratory inspiration. Appearing in Fort Wayne, Ind., Marilyn Manson performed a sick re-enactment of Indiana State Trooper Cory Elson's murder in nearby Decatur. Apparently during the concert, there was a loud boom on stage and then an air cannon shot blood all over Manson who was wearing an ISP uniform and hat, all this to the delight of cheering teenagers.

Yes, I believe that the job is increasingly dangerous. And it is made more so by what is put out there about it. Unfortunately, it isn't the bad cop who pays the price. It is the good cops, such as our fallen brothers and sister of the Lakeland Police Department.

Author

Dean Scoville
Dean Scoville

Associate Editor

Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

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Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

View Bio
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