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Cop deaths up for third straight year

Wire • Dec 25, 2012 at 9:09 AM

New FBI statistics show that 72 law enforcement officers were killed criminally in the line of duty in 2011, making it the highest number of police deaths nationally since 1995.

The numbers rose from 41 in 2008 to 48 in 2009 to 56 in 2010

Four of the officer deaths in 2011 were in Ohio, including Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Suzanne Hopper and Sgt. Brian Dulle of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Hopper, 40, was killed in a Jan. 1, 2011 shootout with a suspect at Enon Beach Mobile Home Park. Dulle, 36, was killed May 10, 2011 when he was struck by a suspect’s vehicle while deploying stop-sticks on U.S. 42. The four deaths in Ohio were the most since 1997.

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims is concerned about the rising numbers.

“Things are a lot different now,” Sims said. “It appears that people have less concern about taking the life of a police officer. There’s an increasing overall disrespect for laws and authority. It’s scary.

“If somebody is willing to take the life of an officer, they won’t think twice about taking the life of a civilian.”

Of the 72 nationwide killings, the vast majority (63) of the deaths came by firearms, mostly handguns. The deaths of law enforcement officers from handguns have risen from 25 in 2008 to 28 in 2009 to 38 in 2010 to 50 in 2011, as shown in the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report.

“The LEOKA report provides us a somber reminder that every day thousands of law enforcement officers are on the street protecting us against criminals,” said David Cuthbertson, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. “That protection does not come for free — it does come at a cost.”

The numbers do not include 53 accidental deaths of law enforcement officers in 2011. The deaths happened in 30 states and Puerto Rico.

Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said his agency, like most, gets notice every time a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty.

“I’ve met officers from all across the state of Ohio and the nation and you have a special bond with them,” Kelly said. “When they hurt, we all hurt.”

In its own 2011 report, the International Association of Chiefs of Police president asks, “What steps can we take as executives to further improve the safety of the nearly 800,000 law enforcement officers who police our country’s streets so that they arrive home safely to their families and loved ones?”

From 2002 to 2011, FBI data shows 543 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty, 500 by firearms (92 percent) and 366 specifically from handguns. There were 95 deaths from rifles, 38 from shotguns, 35 by vehicles and three from knives or other cutting instruments.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called the increase in law enforcement deaths “a devastating and unacceptable trend.”

Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the non-profit, non-partisan Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., said the increase of officers killed with firearms is due to multiple factors. Diaz said it’s a natural consequence of the proliferation of firearms, more powerful and affordable semi-automatic weapons and a growing ideology of anti-government sovereign citizens.

Diaz said there are rank-and-file police organizations who are reluctant to endorse gun control because their membership at large blame the crooks and not the guns. “They need to wake up and smell the coffee because this trend is not going to go away,” Diaz said. “It’s going to get worse and their members are the ones who are going to pay for it.

The 2011 numbers show that 51 of those killed were wearing body armor, 46 by firearms. That includes Hopper, who was wearing “state-of-the-art” body armor but was ambushed and shot in the head.

“It can be a fatal job,” Kelly said. “That’s what we face every day. That’s why we train and we prepare and we equip, but we’re still dealing with humans… . We have to assume every person we come in contact with has a weapon.”

Asked about the increase of law enforcement deaths, Kelly said: “I think that shows how violent we have become.”

He said that more than 3,000 people in Clark County have concealed-carry permits, but he added those are mostly law-abiding citizens.

“They’re not the people who are out here committing crimes, who are engaged in shootouts,” Kelly said. “It’s the gangsters, the hoodlums, those people that create havoc and violence in our communities that are armed. They have grown up with violent behavior and tragically, these people are killing each other and they’re killing law enforcement officers as well.”

Sims added that gun control is not the main issue: “Bad guys are always going to get guns,” Sims said. “In my humble opinion, gun laws don’t necessarily prevent officer deaths.”

FBI officials said the report is used to form the basis of its officer safety awareness training courses. “In the last four years, the FBI has provided the officer safety awareness training courses to over 54,000 public safety professionals in the U.S. and abroad,” Cuthbertson said.

Among the findings:

- The characteristics of the average officer killed was a 38-year-old white male with 12 years of service. Also, 32 percent of the deaths happened in arrest situations, 21 percent in ambush situations, 15 percent in traffic pursuits or stops, 13 percent in tactical situations, 10 percent in answering disturbance calls, 7 percent while investigating suspicious persons or circumstances and 1 percent while transporting or maintaining custody of a prisoner.

- Since 2002, Ohio has seen 17 law enforcement officers by what the FBI terms “feloniously killed.” The other two officer deaths in 2011 included Sandusky police officer Andy Dunn, 30, who was shot and killed March 19 trying to make a traffic stop and retired Columbus police officer Tom Hayes, 61, who was paralyzed and died Jan. 20, 2011 as a result of injuries sustained 31 years earlier when he was shot during an arrest attempt.

-Nationwide, 54,744 officers were assaulted in the line of duty, a rate of 10.2 per 100 officers. The rate of assault per officers in Ohio in 2011 was 5.5.

Officers Feloniously Killed

2011: 72 (63 by firearms, 56 by handguns, 7 by rifles, 6 by shotguns)

2010: 56

2009: 48

2008: 41

2007: 58

2006: 48

2005: 55

2004: 57

2003: 52

2002: 56

2001: 70

2000: 51

Source: FBI statistics


Mark Gokavi - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)

©2012 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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