The year 2011 saw a 13% uptick from the previous year in the number of police officers killed in the line of duty. This statistic alarms me and should be a wakeup call for every law enforcement head throughout our great nation. One death is too many; 173 deaths are outrageous. So why is there no hue and cry from the media? Where is the outrage and promise of support to help protect our courageous Warriors?
According to The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, the preliminary numbers for the year 2011 regarding the manner in which 173 heroes were killed break down thusly:
- 68 officers killed by gunfire
- 64 officers killed in traffic accidents
- 41 officers died due to other causes
Not only were more officers killed last year, a 15% increase over 2010, but more of them died as a result of firearms rather than traffic accidents. That figure also represents a trend—cops killed by gunfire has been increasing the past three years. Deaths due to firearms have become the number one cause of death for the first time in 14 years.
Statistics are just numbers as they relate to politics or finances. Anyone can manipulate the numbers to their own end and demonstrate whatever result or point they wish to prove. However, in the case of law enforcement officers killed, the numbers are exactly what they represent: a growing disrespect for law and order and those who are sworn to uphold the law. Cops are increasingly the brunt of insults (the Occupy Movement is a recent example) and cops are objects of derision and assaults, e.g., objects thrown at them and miscreants spitting on them.
Our men and women are expected to do their duty and not react in any other way than what is considered to be professional, all the while being filmed by media and others who hope to capture the police looking evil and brutal while the lawbreakers egg them on. Their objective is to show the cops victimizing harmless citizens. Really? What result does this provide? Our officers tend to focus on their own perception of how others view the incident the officers are involved in, rather than concentrating on the threat the cops face. The officers worry about how their actions will appear on the nightly news or in the morning paper. They hesitate when they shouldn’t; become reactive instead of proactive. Add into the mixture, bosses who defer to the loudest voices (politicians, media and other whiners) rather than backing their troops, and you wind up with a recipe for disaster.
I submit that one of the problems that has led to the increase in LE deaths is money, particularly the lack of money. Budgets have been cut, which means training is always the first casualty. Craig Floyd, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman, offered this: “Drastic budget cuts affecting law enforcement agencies across the country have put our officers at grave risk, at a time when officers are facing a more cold-blooded criminal element and fighting a war on terror, we are cutting vital resources necessary to ensure their safety and the safety of the innocent citizens they protect.”
Would increasing or at least maintaining yearly training completely solve the problem? No, but it would help to decrease the number of deaths and injuries. Recall this time-proven axiom, “The way you train is the way you fight.” Without training there is no quick go-to, no short term muscle memory to rely on. Take away training from our cops and you may as well lock the doors to the station. Putting cops on the street with inadequate training or none at all is like sending them into the lion’s den at the Roman Coliseum—there will be injuries and deaths. I am aware of many departments that have reduced their firearms training to one qualification per year. I am also aware of some corrections departments that have completely eliminated firearms training. Let’s not even begin to discuss the liability issues associated with that ill-conceived practice.