The number of police officers killed in the line of duty is up 70% over this time last year in America. Although the rates fluctuate from year to year for various reasons, what is quite telling is the dramatic increase in the number of ambushes and surprise attacks on law enforcement officers.
As I review the events and incidents over the last few years since the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, to the recent developments in the Baltimore, Maryland trial (where all six police officers were acquitted or had charges dropped in the death of Freddie Gray), I guess one should not be too surprised. With the anti-police stance and rhetoric taken by the Black Lives Matter movement, the lack of genuine and heartfelt support seen by some leaders during the current presidential campaigns, and the rush to judgment and premature shaping of public opinion created by several public figures when discussing violent encounters between police and the community, once again one should not be surprised of the current situation.
A lack of respect, dignity, and basic values has also been displayed repeatedly across America in many ways, such as in the form of flag burning, violent protests, and home grown and lone wolf acts of terrorism. Just recently at the Democratic National Convention a female police officer at the podium asked for a moment of silence for the police officers who have been recently killed and her request was met with several voices in the crowd yelling “black lives matter”. One could wonder if some of these egregious acts could be contributed to a decline in the home and parental skills, a decline in our educational system, a lack of public support for law enforcement and public safety from several key public figures and institutions, and or a break down in the criminal justice system, just to name a few.
The deadly ambushes of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge and the police slayings in Kansas City, and recently in San Diego, have raised the fears of violence against law enforcement. This does not include officers from Georgia to Michigan who have been shot in incidents that have drawn less attention, but they have added to the growing sense that it is a dangerous time to be a cop. A heightened level of anxiety definitely exists, especially in light of the manner that police officers have been slain in the line of duty.
The FBI study and statistics on police offices slain over the time period of 2005-2014, show the following areas in order were the most lethal situations: arrests, traffic stops, investigating suspicious persons, disturbance calls, unprovoked attacks, tactical situations such as barricaded suspects, and ambushes.
This year to date, according to FBI (at the time of this writing), 34 officers have been slain. If the killings continue at the same pace, the total for the year would be 59. This is approximately 44% more than last year, which was one of the safest for officers in decades. Year to year, the number of officers intentionally killed changes drastically. From 1990-2014, the yearly average for officers killed was 64. What makes 2016 stand out is the manner (surprise pre-planned attacks targeting cops with more sophistication) in which the officers have been attacked.
Public figures who knowingly speak of violent encounters with law enforcement without the facts, either due to public pressure, or who try to capitalize on a situation for their own interest, create an environment of false expectations and anger. This develops into situation where the public, who was made initially to believe something otherwise, can’t handle the truth when the final investigations conclude differently.
Could we change this trend of violence against law enforcement if we held public figures in positions of authority, power, and influence, specifically those who dangerously speak without the facts in incidents such as officer involved shootings, accountable for their actions just as we hold those in law enforcement accountable for their actions? #policeofficersslain, #violenceonlawenforcement, policecommunityrelations
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As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.