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Cops Worry About Their Safety: Police Firearm Deaths Up 56%-Ambush Shootings Up 163%
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 01/30/2017

Police We combine two recent reports into one article, one from Pew stating that (72%) say officers are less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, and another from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund addressing the fact that ambush-style shootings of police are up 163 percent, and that firearm-related fatalities spiked in 2016, with 64 officers killed, up 56 percent from 41 in 2015.

Pew

In a new Pew Research Center national survey, majorities of police officers say that recent high-profile fatal encounters between citizens and police officers have made their jobs riskier, aggravated tensions, and left many officers reluctant to fully carry out some of their duties.

The wide-ranging survey, is one of the largest ever conducted with a nationally representative sample of police, draws on the attitudes and experiences of nearly 8,000 policemen and women from departments with at least 100 officers.

About as many (72%) say officers in their department are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons. Overall, more than eight-in-ten (86%) say police work is harder today as a result of these high-profile incidents. About nine-in-ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety.

Overall, more than eight-in-ten (86%) say police work is harder today as a result of these high-profile incidents. About nine-in-ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety.

About nine-in-ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Firearms-related fatalities spiked in 2016, with 64 officers killed, up 56 percent from 41 in 2015. Ambush-style shootings are up 163 percent.

Analysis

It seems clear that police officers are not being as aggressive as they once were, which is linked by many to increasing crime in some cities. The Pew study provides clarity on this issue for the first time.

What we do know is that policing is becoming increasingly dangerous and the Pew report cites the same data we use from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Per Pew, “…the number of fatal attacks on officers has grown in recent years. About nine-in-ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety – a level of concern recorded even before a total of eight officers died in separate ambush-style attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge last July.”

We read articles daily as to the difficulty of recruiting and retaining police officers in cities throughout the country. We wrote extensively in 2016 as to the perceptions of police officers, public support, and suggestions for reform. For a review of police-related articles, see Crime in America.

While much needs to be done to form bonds with communities and improvements as to training and pay, we need to understand that the harsh public environment cops exist in is taking a toll. Crime is rising in cities throughout the country, and many believe it’s due to cops not being as aggressive as they once were.

If officers continue to be the target of community anger, and if media sources continue to unleash unbalanced negative coverage, more will leave the profession and fewer will join. Cops are only willing to take risks if they have community support.

But with ambush-style shootings of officers up 163 percent, and firearms-related fatalities up 56 percent, and if you add this to community resentment and harsh media coverage, the question becomes whether anyone will be willing to be a police officer. I’m aware of family members and spouses who are telling their loved ones to get out of policing, and to get out now.

Yes, we need reform. Brutality must be condemned. Fairness must be achieved. But critics and the media may be creating a problem far greater than police misuse of force. The safety of our communities may be in jeopardy if balance cannot be achieved.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose to their highest level in five years in 2016, with 135 officers killed in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). The data presented here is from their website, source below.

The 135 officer fatalities in 2016 is a 10 percent increase over the 123 who died in the line of duty last year and is the highest total since 2011, when 177 officers made the ultimate sacrifice.

Firearms-related incidents were the number one cause of death in 2016, with 64 officers shot and killed across the country. This represents a significant spike—56 percent—over the 41 officers killed by gunfire in 2015.

Of the 64 shooting deaths of officers this year, 21 were the result of ambush-style attacks—the highest total in more than two decades.

Eight multiple-shooting death incidents claimed the lives of 20 officers in 2016, tied with 1971 for the highest total of any year since 1932. Those incidents included five officers killed in ambush attacks in Dallas (TX) and three in Baton Rouge (LA), spanning 10 days in July.

Fifty-three officers were killed in traffic-related incidents in 2016, which was 10 percent more than the 48 killed on roadways in 2015.

Handguns were the leading type of firearm used in fatal shootings of law enforcement officers this year. However, there was a marked increase in officers killed with rifles. Of the 64 firearms-related fatalities, 53 percent, or 34 officers, were shot and killed with a handgun.

Twenty-five officers were killed with a rifle, compared to five in 2015. Two officers were killed with a shotgun, and the type of firearm used in three of the cases is currently unknown.

Of the 64 firearms-related fatalities in 2016, 21 officers were shot and killed without warning in ambush-style shootings.

This number is 163 percent higher than 2015 when eight officers were shot and killed in ambush-style attacks.

Multiple-shooting death incidents claimed the lives of 20 officers in 2016, the highest total of any year since 1932. Those incidents included five officers killed in ambush attacks in Dallas (TX) and three in Baton Rouge (LA), spanning 10 days in July.

Domestic Disturbance calls accounted for 14 officer fatalities and were the underlying circumstance in some of the ambushes of officers.

Thirteen officers were killed while investigating suspicious persons or vehicles, and nine officers were killed while attempting to arrest a suspect.

Reprinted with permission from http://crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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