It’s happened again, only this time it was Washington County Sheriff’s deputies taking the hits from the media. In the early morning hours of Saturday, September 16, 2006, deputies were called to an address outside of Tigard where parents called 9-1-1 to report their 18 year-old son was drunk, violent, and threatening to kill everybody.
When the deputies arrived, shortly after 3:00 a.m., they found Lukus Glenn in the front yard of his home where he had broken out windows with a shovel and his hands, which were bleeding. He was holding a knife, and refused orders to drop it. Three bean bag rounds were fired by a Tigard officer who covered the call, without any effect. Glenn turned toward his house, and officers, fearing for the safety of those inside, fired their weapons, killing the man.
We’ve seen the media in action before. The only thing missing this time was the circus usually caused by self-anointed community spokespersons ranting about racial profiling and demanding that the officers be fired.
People … who are unwilling to call the police should call The Oregonian office, whatever the hour of day or night, and insist that they send Steve Duin and Maxine Bernstein to the scene immediately to deal with the violence. They apparently have all the answers for effective conflict resolution.
The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein hit the ground running on this one. Her article appeared in Monday’s paper. It was her usual approach. Get to the grieving mother and pump her dry. Lukus Glenn had been a football player at Tigard High School, recently quit a part-time job, went to dinner and a party Friday night, and came home drunk. Then she zeros in on Glenn’s 22 year-old friend who arrived on the scene before the deputies arrived. He gave Bernstein his account of the shooting in some detail.
The Oregonian’s Steve Duin wasn’t far behind. His commentary appeared in Tuesday’s Metro Section. In the opening of his piece, Duin had pronounced his judgment: “The sheriff’s deputies from Washington County, armed with an attitude all their own, were high on adrenaline and low on patience.” He goes on to present what he calls “a few nagging questions.” Duin’s lengthy piece concludes with the slam, “After the death of Lukus Glenn, what mother or father would expect help to arrive with the sheriff’s deputies of Washington County?”
Oddly enough, next to Duin’s rant, a transcription of the 9-1-1 recording gives a clear account of the seriousness of the situation, including the fact that Lukus Glenn threatened to kill everybody, and had already “busted” the front door so the family couldn’t lock him out. This, Mr. Duin, is a nasty situation. From the record printed in The Oregonian, there was an “attitude” already present on the Glenn premises before the officers arrived, and it belonged to the young man who was smashing up his parents’ home and cars.
About the only source supporting the officers’ actions at this time was radio talk-show host Lars Larson. Playing hardball with some of his callers, Larson continually took the position that when officers tell you to put down a weapon, that is exactly what should be done. Later callers with law enforcement experience contributed facts about the use of Tasers and other non-lethal means and supported Larson.
By Thursday, Steve Duin dropped his attack on police officers and became the bearer of good news. It seems he learned in an interview with Officer Paul Ware that the Portland Police Bureau and other departments have a voluntary 40- hour training program in crisis intervention. However, Duin’s new commentary fell short of being an apology for the stinging remarks in his earlier piece.
The investigation into the death of Lukus Glenn continues at this writing. Certainly people who were with him on that fatal night will be able to shed some light on his state of mind, his behavior during the night, and what substances he might have ingested before he became violent.
Some of the letters to the editor come from well meaning but naive citizens. The social environment within our country has changed drastically in the past 40 years. The conventional wisdom in police circles in the 1950s was that “professional criminals don’t want to kill a cop. They would do hard time for that.” But both society and crime have changed. Drugs, automatic weapons, and gang warfare have made police work drastically more dangerous. Officer survival training and bulletproof vests for police officers have become necessities in today’s world. Then on Sunday, September 24, The Oregonian published an exceptionally thorough and objective account of the Lukus Glenn shooting. The piece carried the by-lines of Kate Taylor and Dana Tims. Somebody at the paper apparently decided that a change in direction was in order.
What about Steve Duin’s question in his opening attack? “What mother or father would expect help to arrive with the sheriff’s deputies of Washington County?” The answer seems obvious. People with a violent family confrontation who are unwilling to call the police should call The Oregonian office, whatever the hour of day or night, and insist that they send Steve Duin and Maxine Bernstein to the scene immediately to deal with the violence. They apparently have all the answers for effective conflict resolution.
1. Today the mainstream media often cover events with a bias that may reveal a personal or even organizational slant which should not be confused by the public with an objective account of what actually happened.
2. When there were two daily papers in Portland, there was a chance for greater care in reporting facts, since the opposing newspaper may challenge the work done by the other. What ever happened to the Oregon Journal?