Interview with a Shoreline cop

Sunday, December 27, 2009

By Diane Hettrick
 
I had a long conversation with a Shoreline cop on December 21. It was a random encounter with a sixteen-year veteran who wanted to be sure that I was writing about police work from an informed point of view. We covered a lot of topics in two hours. He confirmed my information that the most dangerous police call was for domestic violence. "A man's house is his castle," he quoted. You are going into someone's home, you are entering their space. They will react more strongly and more violently than they would on more neutral ground. They know the space. They know where the weapons are, including the knives in the kitchen. It is law in Washington that you have to make an arrest in a domestic violence assault. The person who called you may have just wanted some help in an argument. When they find out you are going to arrest their loved one, they often turn against you. Because of this, two cops go on any domestic violence call.

I asked about the Pierce county police attacks and if he thought there would be copycats. "Absolutely," he said. "They have found out that police are not invincible." Look at the school shootings. They have continued and they have learned from the previous killings. The Virginia Tech killer chained the doors shut so his victims couldn't escape. The one thing the attackers have in common is that they want to die. They want to take as many people as possible with them, and they want their name to be known. They either shoot themselves or put themselves in a "suicide by cop" situation.



I wondered if cops would change their behavior because of the Lakewood killings, perhaps doing their reports at the station house instead of in public places. "Absolutely not," he responded. If cops feel the need to hide in the station house, what does that say about the safety of the general public? It's our job to be out there and visible. The fact that driving a police car or wearing a police uniform puts us in danger is part of our job. We are there to protect the public, and people need to see us. The only thing that might change is that instead of four cops at one table, they might sit at two different tables, but they will still be there. Our job is to protect life, protect property, arrest perpetrators, and restore normal order. We'll keep on doing our jobs.

I think that I would have gotten the same information from any cop I talked to.

When I got to my car and turned on the radio, I heard the report of two more cops being gunned down in Pierce county. They had gone on a domestic violence call, to help remove a man from his brother's house. In a very small, upstairs bedroom, the man pulled a gun and starting shooting.  One officer was released from the hospital and the other died on December 29.


But I couldn't help thinking. We expect cops to put their lives in danger to protect us - but we are thinking of dramatic situations like bank robberies or shoot-outs. I can't think of any other job where you are in danger just by wearing a work uniform or driving a company car.


Photo by Steven Robinson for the Shoreline Area News

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