CARLSON: Hate speech is not so harmless

It’s not unusual to walk into a Starbucks and see several cops sitting at tables chatting while on break or getting ready to go on shift.

Nor is it unusual to see a squad car pulled over by the side of the road, with an officer talking to his partner or jotting down notes.

These are the moments in an officer’s workday where he or she can feel safe.

But in less than 30 days, five police officers with the Seattle and Lakewood departments have been murdered while sitting in their car or having a cup of coffee. Another was wounded.

This is beyond chilling. As the son of a retired cop (dad once worked the beat Tim Brenton was patrolling the night he was slain), I know that there are people “out there” who loathe cops and won’t hesitate to shoot them. But that’s when they’re trying to escape custody or avoid arrest.

What happened on Halloween night and again Sunday morning was very different. A killer actively targeted police officers, stalking them and killing them in cold blood only because they wore a badge.

Why such hideous acts of random murder?

When the alleged Fort Hood shooter was finally wounded after killing 13 and wounding dozens, his motive eventually became clear: he was an army officer, but also an Islamic radical supporting the people we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Killing as many soldiers as possible was Nidal Malik Hasan’s way of fighting for the cause he truly believed in. Thus his shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” as he opened fire.

But what are the motives for the slaughters in Seattle and Parkland?

The man police say is responsible for officer Brenton’s murder, Christopher Monfort, had posted writings expressing grudges against cops laced with racial animosity.

But while Monfort, who is black, shot two officers who are white, he earlier attempted to blow up three police cars after setting a fire to a mobile police lab parked nearby.

The bombs were set to a timer designed to detonate and kill the first responders and Monfort couldn’t have known whether those officers were white, black, brown or Asian. All he knew is that they would be wearing blue.

There is no shortage of anti-cop rhetoric from artists and political activists that flies outside the boundaries of complaints about excessive force or brutality. It’s a world where cops are bad, period.

This subculture may be sick but it has a following. After the Brenton murder, a talent-free hard core music group started selling a T-shirt online that glorified Monfort, portraying his image behind a bloodied police badge. The band’s singer said more dead police officers means a better society.

Until now, most militant, vicious, anti-cop rhetoric has been shrugged off as free speech spouted by idiots. But it is more than idiocy. When aimed at racial or sexual minorities, rhetoric of this type is condemned as bigotry and hate speech.

But when aimed at cops it’s dismissed as infantile, meaning harmless. Is it really so harmless? Five dead officers, 11 children without a dad or a mom.

Is it really so harmless?