Thursday, April 9, 2009



(April 9, Pittsburgh, PA) Five days after being ambushed after responding to a domestic dispute call, three slain Pittsburgh Police Officers were laid to rest earlier today. It was the second time in as many weeks that a major American city buried multiple officers who were killed in the line of duty. Three weeks ago 4 members of the Oakland (CA) PD were gunned down by a life long criminal.

The circumstances of the fatal events in oakland and Pittsburgh were very different yet they both dramatically underscored the notion that, for a Police Officer on duty, there is nothing routine in the routine. Each and every call, no matter how seemingly innocuous, may in fact unfold as a life and death scenario. Each public encounter, from a traffic stop to a distress call from a suburban home, requires vigilance in approach and tactics. Safety of the Officers and the public should always be the prevailing guideline.

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed several mass fatality shootings across the country. The day before the tragic event in pittsburgh, a Viet Namese immigrant killed 13 people in a civic center in Binghamton, NY. There were several incidents of recently laid off employees returning to their former place of employment and shooting randomly. An assisted living facility in North Carolina was the scene of a mass casualty shooting and at least three families have been murdered by the head of the household. Each of these events leaves us dismayed, confused and angered. We seem to have the need to know the motives that drove the individuals to murder; after all, some of these folks appeared almost familiar to us in a generic sort of way.

In the wake of such senseless crimes there gun control debate is sure to surface as are other corollary avenues of inquiry all of which pertain to the perpetrators. Yes, motive is important; understanding the dynamics of such actors can prove to be of value to the law enforcement community in the future. However, a greater degree of focus needs to be placed on the victims, the Police Officers who in reality do tangibly represent law and order in our communities.

The media is too eager to sensationalize the crime, psychoanalyze the perpetrator and pay brief, cursory attention to those who died in the line of duty. This is simply the way our culture is today: all about entertainment and appealing to the basest of human emotions. Soon we find days have turned into weeks of increasingly greater detailed coverage of the murderers as the Officers are laid to rest away from the media’s eye.
As facts about the two Police killers became known, portraits of two very different but equally disturbed individuals have emerged. In both cases, specifics from their pasts, certain items found in their possession or where they resided, have provided the media ample fodder for their hyperactive extrapolation machines. Jiverly Wong, the Binghamton shooter, was reportedly “upset” by many slights, real and imagined, ranging from being “made fun of “ because of his accent, to paranoid delusions that “undercover police” were stalking him. The press had a field day with these items and an even greater time reporting on an alleged “death threat” towards President Obama, Wong had reportedly made in front of coworkers. The media wasted no time exploiting some comments made by friends of Richard Poplawski, the Pittsburgh cop killer. According to some of his self-described friends, Poplawski resented President Obama for “wanting to take” away the right to bear arms, among his other alleged complaints.

So naturally, the coverage of these horrific stories had a distinctly political slant as if some political issues had actually driven these two troubled men to murder Police Officers. Some in the media took the approach that the hyperbolic rhetoric of “right wing talk radio hosts” may have been a motivating factor to Poplawski. Likewise, the immigration debate became front and center in the Binghamton tragedy simply because Wong was a naturalized immigrant. Sensationalistic, simplistic, tabloidesque writing is neither reporting or journalism. It is the lowest form of mass exploitation and dissemination of misinformation.

But, then again, who really cares? The question is, why is so much media attention given to lunatics who randomly, wantonly murder rather than the Police Officers who have given their lives while performing in the line of duty? Why does our society not collectively respect such sacrifice and celebrate such noble courage?

Until we can answer these and many other difficult questions, our society will continue to be plagued by criminal and random violence. This is not to suggest that some societal revelations will eliminate the violence in our cities and towns. Not at all. We will remain a violent society if, for no other reason, that we have always, historically, been a violent people. There are no practical solutions to mitigate the levels of violence we have come to accept as normal however, this does not rule out trying to instill a greater respect towards members of the law enforcement community within our communities.

Indeed, for every Peace Officer in the land there is no “routine” call; the dangers are ever present, insidious and very often random acts of psychotic desperation, paranoid delusions or sociopathic bloodlust. We should support and empower our Police at all times.

May we learn to show greater respect for the “Thin Blue Line” and the men and women who comprise it.

Rest in Peace, Officers Sciullo, Kelly, and Mayhle
Godspeed, Brothers.


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