Cops killed in line of duty jumps 50% in two years
WASHINGTON—The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has increased 50 percent in the past two years, reaching a 17-year high, according to preliminary numbers from the FBI and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
In 2011, 72 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty, which is a 28.6 percent increase from the 56 officers killed in 2010 and a 50 percent increase from the 48 killed in 2009, according to the FBI statistics. "This is a very serious situation," Jim McMahon, chief of staff for the IACP, told Security Director News.
A closer look at the numbers also reveals a troubling trend in firearm-related deaths. Of the 72 officers killed in the line of duty in 2011, 63 were killed with firearms. Compare that to 55 firearm-related deaths in 2010 and 45 in 2009. "Not only is it a high number, it's an increasing number," Gene Voegtlin, a spokesman for the IACP, told SDN. "And the trend, unfortunately, is showing no signs of reversal."
The FBI also breaks down the situations during which officers are killed. Of the 72 deaths in 2011, 19 officers were killed during ambushes; 11 were killed during traffic pursuits or stops; five were killed while investigating suspicious people or circumstances; another five were killed while interrupting robberies or pursuing robbery suspects; and four died while responding to disturbance calls, one of which was a domestic disturbance.
One number that is particularly alarming to McMahon is that of the 19 officers killed in ambushes, 14 were unprovoked attacks. "What we're seeing is random and senseless gun crimes," McMahon said. "And when you look at the FBI figures from a 10-year period, from 2000 to 2009, 25 percent of the offenders [were] on probation or parole when they killed the law enforcement officer. That's an alarming figure."
The FBI numbers also offer additional details on circumstances surrounding each officer's death, such as how many of the 72 victims were wearing body armor (49) when they were killed, how many fired their own weapons in the altercation (17), and how many were killed with their own weapon (4).
The IACP runs the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police, which each year digs into these FBI numbers to spot alarming trends and glean information that could be used to improve officer training and tactical doctrine, "any type of preparation" that could give an officer "a one-second advantage over an adversary," McMahon said.
The weak economy and budget constraints at police departments around the country could be driving these increasing numbers, McMahon said. "It's one of the areas we're looking at," he said. "With the economy and budget situation, departments have furloughed, they've had to lay off, they've had to cut back in training, they're running their patrol cars years longer then they normally would. So we're concerned that the cutback in training and staffing and the ability for backup could cause even increased problems in these areas."
In addition to the officers who were feloniously killed in 2011, 50 officers were killed in accidents, which is a decrease of 22 officers from the number accidentally killed in 2010.