From Lakewood to London: The lesson of the scorpion and the frog

Two incidents, 20 years apart, demonstrate the perils of early release of inmates


Maurice Clemmons, the man who killed four Lakewood police officers on November 29, 2009, and Usman Kahn, the terrorist responsible for the November 29, 2019, attack on London Bridge had something in common. Both were serving long sentences but were granted early release by authorities. These authorities gambled, waging the lives of innocents as their bet, and granted these killers early release. The wager was lost along with six lives.

This failure to protect is not unique to Lakewood and London. There are professionals releasing many people whose words and deeds have proved them to be dangerous to communities.

If there is ever a study done determining the number of good citizens who would be alive today if not for the early release of their murderers, I wager the number would be tragically large.

Buses and cars remain on London Bridge in London after a convicted terrorist who had been let out of prison in an automatic release program stabbed to death two people and wounded three others in a knife attack on Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Buses and cars remain on London Bridge in London after a convicted terrorist who had been let out of prison in an automatic release program stabbed to death two people and wounded three others in a knife attack on Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The Fable of The Scorpion and the Frog

This situation reminds me of the classic fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog.”

In the fable, the scorpion becomes bored by his habitat and seeks to find another. After searching, he arrives at a river’s edge and decides that on the opposite side is the perfect new home for him, but he can’t figure a way to cross. Upon seeing a frog in the brush near the water’s edge, the scorpion asks, “Dear Frog, would you please carry me across this river on your back?”

The frog declines declaring, “If I do that you will sting me, and I will die.”

The scorpion insists, “No I would not do that. I would be forever in your debt if you would do this favor for me."

With this assurance given, the frog trusts the deadly scorpion and takes it upon its back. The frog, with great effort, begins the long swim across the treacherous river to give a new opportunity to the scorpion. Halfway across the river the scorpion does a bit of a jig and stings the frog. The frog’s limbs instantly begin to go numb.

As the frog begins to sink, he croaks, “You fool! Now we shall both die. Why did you do that?”

The scorpion replies, seemingly pleased with his accomplishment, “I could not help myself. It is in my nature.”

Then both disappear forever beneath the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

The obvious difference between this fable and our current described situation is the authorities are frogs, but they never personally suffer the consequences for their bad decisions. Therefore, they continue to make them.

eight Ways to Prewarn Yourself of Dangerous People on Your Beat

Since street officers have little control over the bad decisions made by some judges, psychiatrists, parole boards, mayors and governors, our only recourse is not to be caught unaware and become a victim of the people whose nature is to be more deadly than the scorpion.

Here are eight ways for a police officer to be aware of these persons before contact with them:

  1. Remember the faces and names of the dangerous suspects you deal with daily for identification, on sight, later.
  2. Review the release from prison notifications regularly posted at your agency.
  3. Study the new warrants list regularly.
  4. Take the time to access the photos of the truly dangerous individuals on these lists and study them.
  5. Record the news daily and study the faces of those who have committed violent crimes and been released, as well as the location of their victims. They will often strike again shortly after their release.
  6. Develop a rapport with reliable informants who can keep you posted of the contemporary threats on your beat.
  7. Develop a rapport with dispatchers by thanking them when they go the extra mile to get information on possible threats you face before you arrive at the scene of a call.
  8. Expect resistance on every contact so you are surprised by compliance.

13 Ways to Categorize a Specific Suspect as Potentially Dangerous

Don’t ignore the obvious. Street officers need to use extreme caution with people already determined to be dangerous.

How do we categorize someone as “dangerous”? Here is a list of indicators. Be fully alert and use caution when you are about to contact a suspect who:

  1. Is a wanted fugitive.
  2. Has served time for violent crimes.
  3. Is a member of a violent criminal gang.
  4. Is illegally armed.
  5. Has said “I will kill (fill in the blank)” in the past.
  6. Regularly resists arrest.
  7. Has battered citizens before.
  8. Has battered police officers before.
  9. Is a habitual criminal.
  10. Has committed criminal great bodily harm to a citizen or police officer in the past.
  11. Has criminally killed another human being in the past.
  12. Is either a known or unknown person of interest in a violent crime.
  13. Is a person who is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or mentally ill, or not, who tells you that he wants to hurt himself, others and/or you.

Conclusion

Knowing that a person you are about to contact is more dangerous than a scorpion or passing on that information to another officer before contact can save a life. 

Now if some judges, parole boards, mayors, governors and members of the psychiatric community ever learn to identify people who are more dangerous than scorpions and then take the appropriate action, they may save thousands of lives.

Sadly, in too many cases, it is not in their nature.

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