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Originally published April 12, 2010 at 1:31 PM | Page modified April 12, 2010 at 1:31 PM

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Families of slain officers ask for too much

The Seattle Times Editorial Board says the proposed $182 million claim by the families of four Lakewood police officers is not reasonable.

PUBLIC sympathy for the families of the four slain Lakewood police officers ebbed last week when the families announced demands for $182 million in public money. It was an outlandish sum.

The families seemed to sense this on Friday, when various members said it was not about the money, but about prodding Pierce County to change its procedures. One said they would drop their planned lawsuit if changes were made.

The families have a financial claim, but not anything like this.

Where to place the blame? The Lakewood police shootings were a systemic failure of which Pierce County was only a part.

On the matter of responsibility, the murderer, Maurice Clemmons, is the primary person responsible for the killings. If he were still alive, the families might be demanding the death penalty, and they would have a strong case.

But Clemmons has paid that penalty already, having chosen to die rather than surrender.

Lesser responsibility, but still a strong responsibility, falls on members of Clemmons' family, whom he called from jail. He told them he planned to kill police officers, and they kept his secret.

The jail staff did not hear these threats, which were recorded. Clemmons made them over the telephone, and jail staff were not listening on the line. The families argue that they should have been. Pierce County says it does not have the people to do this.

The policy on monitoring calls is for Pierce County leaders to decide, based on how much money they have and how many demands they have on it.

Perhaps they should have a policy of listening in on inmates like Clemmons, as the families say. But a lawsuit for $182 million is not the way to determine how to spend the public's money.

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