POPD chief calls officers’ shootings ‘horrible,’ fears copycat crimes

The murder of four Lakewood Police officers this week not only has local law enforcement agencies struggling to absorb the tragedy, but taking a careful look at how their officers interact with the communities they serve.

“We have asked our officers to get out of their cars, be more visible in the community and talk more with people to help solve problems rather than just respond to calls,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend. “But this is exactly what those four officers were doing in Lakewood. Rather than sitting in a conference room or squad room at the police station talking, they were being present in the community, in an area known for criminal activity.”

Maurice Clemmons, 37, is suspected of entering a coffee shop in Parkland, near the McChord Air Force base, shortly after 8 a.m. Nov. 29 and shooting four Lakewood officers execution-style, according to a story posted by the Tacoma Daily Index.

The officers were identified as Mark Renninger, 39; Ronald Owen, 37; Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42. All had children and most were married at the time of their deaths.

Townsend said one of his officers, Det. Marvin McKinney, worked and trained with Sgt. Renninger.

After a region-wide manhunt, Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle Police Officer in South Seattle in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Townsend said the murders have definitely affected his department, but will not keep them from being visible in the community.

“Our officers will continue to police in the same way they do, but ... they will have to balance the need for their own safety with our desires for them to be approachable to the community,” he said. “For a while there will be some apprehension, and I encourage them to be extra vigilant in watching their surroundings and using good judgment.”

As far as the killings of fellow officers, Townsend said he was shocked and saddened.

“Shooting police officers is more than just a violent criminal act against police, it is really a horrible act against a community and society itself,” he said. “It is a reminder to us of how everything can be just fine one moment and turn horribly bad the next.”

“It is incredible to me that any human could be so horrible to decide in advance that he wants to kill police officers — and it’s just as frightening that our justice system is allowing the release of some of these violent criminals,” he continued, referring to the fact that Clemmons was not only released from an approximately 100-year prison sentence in Arkansas in 2000, but recently released on bail in Pierce County while facing second-degree child rape charges.

Townsend said he fears similar crimes will occur, not only because cities and counties are struggling to balance their shrinking budgets “at the expense of the criminal justice system,” but because it is common to see copycat crimes.

“Unfortunately I don’t think this will be the end. It’s not uncommon to see other similar acts occur,” he said. “(And), unfortunately, what happened to the Lakewood officers could happen in any community of any size.”

Townsend said POPD officers will be attending the memorial service for the slain Lakewood officers, which has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Tacoma Dome.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, said his agency has 11 members in its Sheriff’s Ceremonial Honor Guard, which assists at the memorial services of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Typically, he said at least five members of the honor guard attend funerals, and from 10 to 20 deputies attend funerals in the greater Puget Sound region. Unless they are participating in a motorcade, deputies and officers attend memorial services on their personal time.

As far as how the shootings will affect how deputies do business, Wilson said they are not asked to stop taking breaks in local coffee shops, but to vary their routines and “remain observant in order to keep off balance someone who means to do officers harm.”

• Papa John’s Pizza to raise money for Lakewood officers

Papa John’s Pizza Restaurants of the Greater Puget Sound Area will be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from sales Dec. 8 and 9 to the families of the four Lakewood Police officers who were killed in a coffee shop Nov. 29.

Orders may be placed either by phone or online for delivery or carry-out. Call District Supervisor Charles Campbell for more information at (360) 440-8835, or your local Papa John’s restaurant.

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