PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Not that many years ago, the thought of shooting a police officer would be almost un-thinkable.
That seems to have changed, and local law enforcement officials say it has a lot to do with a lack of family values.
Hardly a month goes by that some individual doesn’t shoot at a police officer — like what happened in Stanton Heights — and again in New Castle — and then in Westmoreland County. It like there’s an epidemic of cop-shooting.
“It’s a much more brazen attitude we witness every day. In the last 24 hours, we’ve had three officers in our region be confronted by gunfire” Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of FOP Lodge #1, told KDKA’s Jon Delano.
Police veterans notice the difference and say much of it comes from a younger generation — like a Richard Poplowski — that has little respect for law enforcement.
“People don’t look at police officers any more with the respect they should be given. So therefore they just think they can do what they want to do,” noted Allegheny County police chief Charles Moffatt.
Instead of avoiding a police confrontation, some seem to seek it out.
“Used to be able to tell the kid to go home — you’d be able tell the individual, that’s enough, cut it out — curbstone justice in the old days,” said University of Pittsburgh police chief Tim Delanney. “Nowadays, everybody wants a challenge and that’s with weapons.”
Prosecutors notice the attacks on police, too.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a huge surge. It used to be a Philadelphia problem. Now it’s a Pittsburgh problem,” says Mark Tranquilli, Allegheny County’s deputy district attorney.
The prevalence of guns and drugs among the wrong people can be a lethal combination, and some police say the overcrowded jails and lenient judges put potential cop-shooters on the street.
“Not enough people are going away long enough,” noted LaPorte.
But everyone says the problem begins much earlier when children are not taught respect and values by their parents.
“I think it’s indicative of our society in general,” added Moffatt.
Whatever the cause, as Officer Andrew Baker learned in Stanton Heights, it has made the work of police officers much more dangerous.