Back in December I wrote that Maurice Clemmons’ ambush, which left four Lakewood police officers dead, could have been prevented. Clemmons had multiple felony convictions and parole violations, and his latest crime of punching a sheriff’s deputy in the face showed he had no respect for the law or the people tasked with enforcing the law. Despite these facts, a Pierce County judge set his bail at $15,000. It is Washington law to set bail in all cases except capital cases, but it was the judge’s prerogative to set it so low for a violent, repeat offender. Clemmons did come up with that $15,000 and less than a week later took the lives of Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold, and Officer Greg Richards.
Currently in the news spotlight is the story about Seattle Officer Ian Walsh punching a 17-year-old girl in the face. This girl was trying to intervene in the arrest of 19-year-old Marilyn Levias, and when she shoved and grabbed at Officer Walsh, he punched her in the face to get the situation under control. Levias had a prior charge of assault on an officer from when she knocked down a King County Sheriff’s Deputy. She was able to get a deferred disposition, meaning she would get the assault charge dropped if she stayed out of trouble for a set period of time. I don’t know if it was a judge or a prosecutor who made this decision, but the arrangement sounds like something even less severe than “a slap on the wrist.” I got deferred disposition on a speeding ticket–a bit different than assaulting a deputy. Even though Levias isn’t the one who shoved the officer, I think her history sets an example to her and her friends than you can get rough with a cop and get away with it.
I see both of these cases illustrating the poor decisions of the justice system to be soft on people who have acted violently against law enforcement officers. If we want to have cops around to protect us, we need to do a better job of protecting them.