Intolerable Assaults on Police Officers

Los Angeles cannot tolerate an open season on cops.

Police Chief Willie L. Williams made that perfectly clear Wednesday in the wake of three shooting attacks on police officers in two weeks. So far this year, 184 LAPD officers have been shot at, with seven of them being wounded. "Officers have been shot at in the Valley, shot at on the Westside, shot at downtown," the chief said. "This has got to stop."

To catch the perpetrators and prevent future assaults, the chief asked anybody who knows anything to call the LAPD or the media. That is a hard request in parts of town where residents fear deadly retaliation from the assailants or their friends. Such tips are necessary, however, for police officers to do their jobs.

Two African-Americans on the City Council, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Rita Walters, also voiced outrage and urged an end to the attacks. Their appeals should carry weight in the city's black neighborhoods because of their advocacy of police reform and accountability.

"It's rather ominous to have police officers being fired on in this fashion," Ridley-Thomas said. " . . . And, it's difficult to demand services when they are literally under the gun in this way. . . . The officers deserve support."

Councilwoman Walters was equally adamant. "It's absolutely imperative that our police officers be able to do their job in protecting the community," she said. "To be forced to dodge bullets is something that cannot be tolerated."

An officer dodged a bullet Tuesday night in Venice. In the same part of town last week, two officers came under fire. They escaped injury, but in another incident a cop wasn't as lucky. Officer Ray Mendoza was wounded last week when two men shot at him, his partner and a suspected drug offender whom the officers were transporting in South-Central Los Angeles. The officers returned fire, killing one of the assailants. An all-night search led to an arrest, and a second suspect is sought.

That shooting occurred a day after police received a fax warning that white officers would be targeted in retaliation for the delayed imprisonment of LAPD Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officer Laurence M. Powell pending appeal of their convictions in the beating of Rodney G. King. While LAPD authorities do not believe the threat is connected to the recent rash of shootings, they do take it seriously.

At one time, criminals rarely took aim at a cop. Lawbreakers knew that attacking a police officer invited plenty of backup and a hard press for arrest. If caught, killers of cops might well be looking at the death penalty. Those consequences were once enough to make most criminals fear taking aim at an officer. That line cannot continue to be crossed.

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