I wonder if some criminal defense attorney or community group will call for an investigation of the actions of the lone Seattle police officer in shooting down Maurice Clemmons, who is perhaps the best embodiment of the often used cliché: “cold blooded killer.” Clemmons seems to have gone one better than the murderer of four Oakland, California, police officers in March of this year. The murderer in that case was 26 year old Lovelle Mixon. News accounts of those murders report that Mixon shot and killed two motorcycle cops execution style as they responded to a traffic call. Mixon killed two more police officers as they converged on his hideout in an apartment house.
More recently, Maurice Clemmons is believed to have gratuitously targeted the four cops who sat in La Forza coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, a distant suburb of Tacoma. Police have not offered a motive, though Clemmons is reported to have bragged to acquaintances that he was going to kill cops and advised them to watch TV.
Clemmons has a criminal history and was sent to jail in Arkansas for what amounted to a life sentence at the age of 17. Then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons’ sentence to 47 years, making him eligible for parole. Subsequently, the state parole board released Clemmons on parole, and the ex-convict soon violated parole and was returned to prison, whereupon he was released again in 2004. Moving then to the state of Washington, Clemmons again flouted laws and was accused of punching a sheriff’s deputy in the face and perpetrating a child rape.
Clemmons contempt for law seems such that it would not encourage the development of friendships and family ties, yet Clemmons’ relatives and friends are reported to have helped him evade police after the murders. A CBS affiliate station in Seattle quoted the Pierce County sheriff’s office spokesman, Ed Troyer, as saying that as many as six people could be arrested on charges of aiding and abetting a criminal. Among these accused are the driver of a car that helped Clemmons escape from Lakewood to Seattle, and a relative who bandaged his wounds and hid him from police. There was no motive offered for the murders, other than that Clemmons was angry at being jailed again and wanted to kill cops.
To most people, it is distressing to hear that Clemmons’ only motivation was hatred of authority, yet the palpable sense that the cops are the enemy is endemic to many American neighborhoods. Whether North Philadelphia, Compton, or Brownsville, there is often a culture of community approval for the negative sentiment police officials who are, except for the uniform, much like the rest of us. What else would explain the fact that, as police spokesman Ed Troyer told a New York Daily News interviewer, family and friends of Clemmons supplied him with a car, cell phones, money and hiding places?
Certainly, negative attitudes toward police are not confined to ethnic neighborhoods. Goth and Juggalo-style groups often congregate in Starbucks and shopping malls in predominantly white areas. An additional burden on ethnic neighborhoods, however, is the fact that law-abiding residents are more afraid of gangland thugs than of law enforcement authorities. In spite of the “no-snitch” culture that predominates in some areas, no one seems to find it ironic to call the police when shooting victims lay dying in the street, accompanied by the tinny, vaguely musical sound of shell casings hitting the street. But when the police do arrive, as they invariably do, no one seems to know anything.
This time around, the police themselves are themselves once again the victims. Those who must witness this spectacle of anti-police violence, those with respect for others and for the laws, must take it on the chin and pretend it’s not happening.