Monday, January 14, 2008

2007: A deadly year for law enforcement

According to a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the Concerns of Police Survivors study, the 186 deaths of law enforcement nationwide in 2007 is the most since 2001. Below is a breakdown of the 186 deaths, complements of the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette.

  • 69:Number of shooting deaths in 2007, an increase from 52 in 2006.

  • 81:Number of traffic-related deaths in 2007, an increase from 73 in 2006.

  • 7:Officers killed this year who were woman.

  • 39:Average age of police officers killed in the line of duty with an average of 11.4 years in law enforcement.

  • 40:Percent of officers who were killed in felonious attacks in 2007.

  • 60:Percent of officers who died from accidental causes.

  • 51:Number of handguns used in the fatal officer shootings. Shotguns were used in eight.

  • 17:Number of federal law enforcement officers who died this year, including five special agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations who were killed in Iraq.

It's also important to note, that aside from 2001, 2007 is the deadliest year since 1989. The number of deaths in 2001 include those lost on September 11th, thus drastically altering the total.

There are many possible explanations for the horrible number, yet one thing remains certain: Law enforcement is still a very dangerous job.

I would like to thank those of you who put your life on the line daily to protect us citizens, and ask that you understand, as PursuitWatch's introduction states:

First let me say welcome. Contrary to what some have said this is not a police-bashing site. PursuitWatch does not support the abolition of police pursuits. PursuitWatch promotes safer pursuit policy and the elimination of unnecessary pursuits. As police officers, I would ask you keep an open mind as you visit these pages. I am open to your suggestions and criticisms and PursuitWatch will publish well written and reasoned rebuttals to our positions. This should be an evolving learning process for all involved. Please remember that when the suspect flees it is you, the police officer, that we depend upon to make the critical life and death decisions that affect you, the public and even the fleeing suspect. The suspect has already made a potentially deadly decision and how you react to this situation is critical. It is at this point that we rely on your training, professionalism and expertise to make the critical judgments that determine the outcomes of these events. Sure-“If the bad guys hadn’t run this wouldn’t have happened.” What is just as true is that once the suspect flees, the police officers involved have virtually as much control of the outcomes of these events as the bad guys.

Here's to working together towards a safe 2008.


Anonymous said...

To John Harriss Phillips

I'm glad that you have written the preceeding article. I currently work for a software company that is creating an inexpensive and easily accessible emergency vehicle driving course. The main focus is to reinforce driving skills like analyzing an intersection while in pursuit. Because of its affordability, police agencies can use this on a continual basis to review those skills, even years after the academy. My question is regarding the statistic about the average age of the officers killed in the line of duty. Where did this stat come from? Are you aware of the age of those involved in car accidents? Thanks for any reply.

Anonymous said...

I would like to take a few minutes to comment on some of the ideas I have read on this website. You mention that we as citizens depend on the police to make the decision as to when to pursue or not. Have you ever attempted to make a decision in a matter of seconds concerning a possible life or death situation. It's not as easy as all make it out to be. When the police pursue someone and an accident occurs, it is automatically assumed that the police are at fault. What happens when a police officer activates his blue lights, the violator flees at a high rate of speed, the police officer stops his attempts to take the violator into custody, and a mile down the road the violator hits and kills someone. Is it still the police officers fault that the accident occurred. I think not. However, everyday an agency gets sued for it's officers doing just that. It's a catch 22 for police in this country. The public wants the police to protect them and at times give their lives for them. But when something happens that they don't necessarily like the public is the first to point fingers at law enforcement. Consider your wife or child is involved in an incident where a suspect strikes their vehicle and then attempts to leave the scene. Your family member is injured in the collision. There is a witness who calls the police and gives a description of the suspect vehicle. The police get behind it, blue light it, and the vehicle flees. The police cease all law enforcement action and resume normal patrol functions. Later that night your family member dies as a result of the injuries sustained in the hit and run accident. This is a circumstance where the hit and run is a misdeameanor in most states. Therefore, a pursuit is not warranted by most policies. Your family member is dead and there is no one to answer for the crime they committed which caused the death.

In most all instances the hands of the police are tied as to what they can do in given situations. This is no more apparent than in the police pursuit aspect of law enforcement. I do not agree that all violators should be pursued. A minor traffic offense does not add up to the dangers of pursuing a vehicle. However, the person driving the car with the broken taiilight that flees might be the person who just killed 10 people at a mall just because he felt like it.

No one knows what the life of a police officer is like unless they have been one. People are quick to place blame on the police rather than the criminals they are chasing.