With po­lice toll at 135, it’s a bleak year for blue line

Am­bush-style at­tacks reach two-decade high

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

The num­ber of am­bush-style killings of po­lice of­fi­cers in the U.S. reached a two-decade high this year, push­ing law en­force­ment fa­tal­i­ties to their high­est tally in five years, with 135 of­fi­cers killed in the line of duty, ac­cord­ing to a year-end re­port by the Na­tional Law En­force­ment Of­fi­cers Me­mo­rial Fund.

Shoot­ings were the No. 1 cause of death for law en­force­ment in 2016, claim­ing the lives of 64 of­fi­cers — in­clud­ing eight gunned down in two am­bush at­tacks in Dal­las and Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, in July. The re­port notes 21 of the of­fi­cers were shot and killed in am­bush-style at­tacks.

Firearms-re­lated deaths were up 56 per­cent over the 41 of­fi­cers killed by gun­fire in 2015, but are still far be­low the all-time high of 156 of­fi­cers killed by gun­fire in 1973.

Since hit­ting a peak of 280 to­tal line-of-duty deaths in the early 1970s, law en­force­ment fa­tal­i­ties have been on a gen­eral de­cline. But the to­tal num­ber of of­fi­cers killed this year is the high­est since 2011, when 177 of­fi­cers died in the line of duty, ac­cord­ing to the re­port pub­lished Thurs­day.

“Public safety is a part­ner­ship and, too of­ten, the ser­vice and sacrifice of our law en­force­ment pro­fes­sion­als is taken for granted,” said me­mo­rial fund Pres­i­dent Craig W. Floyd. “As we be­gin the new year, let us all re­solve to re­spect, honor and re­mem­ber those who have served us so well and sac­ri­ficed so much in the name of public safety.”

Re­cent high-pro­file deaths of black men at the hands of po­lice of­fi­cers have raised ten­sions be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­ni­ties they serve — with cit­i­zens launch­ing protests aimed at pre­vent­ing ha­rass­ment and bru­tal­ity by of­fi­cers. But those who wear the badge came squarely un­der attack this year with sev­eral di­rect at­tacks.

In Dal­las 25-year-old Army vet­eran Micah Xavier John­son opened fire on po­lice of­fi­cers on July 7 as hun­dreds gath­ered to protest fa­tal po­lice-in­volved shoot­ings in Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Min­nesota. Five of­fi­cers — Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Brent Thomp­son and Pa­trick Za­mar­ripa — were killed, and nine of­fi­cers and two civil­ians were in­jured in the attack. Be­fore he was killed by po­lice, John­son told ne­go­tia­tors that he sought to kill white of­fi­cers.

Less than two weeks later, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers were in mourn­ing again — this time af­ter gun­man Gavin Long fa­tally shot three of­fi­cers in Ba­ton Rouge. Author­i­ties said the gun­man, who iden­ti­fied him­self as a mem­ber of a largely black sep­a­ratist sov­er­eign na­tion, dis­played a high de­gree of tech­ni­cal skill as he stalked and fired upon Of­fi­cers Mon­trell Jack­son and Matthew Ger­ald and Deputy Brad Garafola.

The shoot­ings high­lighted the grow­ing con­cern among of­fi­cers across the coun­try that anti-po­lice rhetoric es­poused by some in­volved in the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment was hav­ing deadly con­se­quences.

As a re­sult, po­lice of­fi­cers from agen­cies across the coun­try part­nered up on pa­trols, and some de­part­ments took a hard-line ap­proach to any per­ceived threats. In Detroit po­lice ar­rested four men for post­ing on so­cial me­dia mes­sages they be­lieved were di­rect threats against of­fi­cers. Ul­ti­mately, the lo­cal prose­cu­tor de­clined to bring charges in the case, deem­ing the mes­sages too vague to be a spe­cific threat.

Po­lice groups have de­scribed im­prov­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween po­lice and res­i­dents, and restor­ing re­spect for law en­force­ment as one of their top pri­or­i­ties in the com­ing year un­der the new lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

“To­gether we must re­shape the con­ver­sa­tion to one which is sup­port­ive of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers,” Na­tional Sher­iff’s As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Greg Cham­pagne said in an in­ter­view last month. “We must work to re­verse the hos­til­ity by some to­ward law en­force­ment of­fi­cers that has been al­lowed to creep in over the last cou­ple of years.”

While shoot­ings were the main cause of death for of­fi­cers this year, more law en­force­ment of­fi­cers also died this year than in 2015 traf­fic-re­lated in­ci­dents.

Fifty-three of­fi­cers were killed in traf­fic-re­lated in­ci­dents this year, com­pared to 48 in 2015. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, 15 of the deaths oc­curred when of­fi­cers were struck while out­side of their ve­hi­cles. Ten of the of­fi­cers who died were in­volved in mo­tor­cy­cle crashes.

The re­main­ing 18 of­fi­cers died from a va­ri­ety of causes, in­clud­ing sev­eral who suf­fered heart at­tacks while on the job. Two of­fi­cers who died in 2016 had con­tracted ill­nesses as a re­sult of res­cue-and-re­cov­ery work re­lated to the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

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