The headline felt like a body blow.
Eleven US Officers Shot in 24 Hours is bad enough; we knew there had been a spate of officers shot lately, having seen story after story from around the country, but to see the tally in print was still a shock. Eleven law enforcement officers shot in one 24-hour period, and two dead, was bad enough. It was what followed in the Associated Press story, posted on Officer.com Tuesday morning, which was the most distressing revelation of just how deadly this year has been for law enforcement: So far in January, 14 officers have been killed in the line of duty was the offending sentence; a true sentence, but one that still assaulted the senses. Sadly, by the end of January, another police officer and two correctional officers died in the line of duty, with two of the deaths resulting from felonious assaults.
We thought 2011 was supposed to be a better year. We hoped bloody 2010 was an aberration and 2011 would see a marked decline in LODD deaths. So far, that has not been the case and already in February the number has grown by two with several more receiving non-fatal wounds. That of the nineteen officers killed this year twelve have been murdered by gunfire or other deliberate attack - acts done with the intention to kill - and there are currently many other officers recovering from nonfatal gunshot wounds sustained since January 1st, and many more who have been fired on but escaped injury, we really do wonder if there is, as some have said, an undeclared war on cops.
There is really no way to tell just yet if the violence is representative of some new paradigm adopted by criminals and crackpots for confrontations with the police, or if it is merely a terrible anomalous spike that will eventually flatten out. There is no shortage of speculation about why we are seeing brother and sister officers gunned down at such a rate. Does media coverage of one killing embolden the next shooter to respond copycat style? Are fears and frustrations born of the lingering recession pushing some past the edge of rationality? Do some folks take distrust of the government to an extreme place in their brain, baste it in the rhetoric of their favorite talking heads, wildly distort the intent of the ideas, and lash out at the most visible symbols of government authority - law enforcement? Are there more severely mentally ill and dangerously violent people wandering about than ever before, for whatever reason? Or does it have to do with growing deficits in the number of officers working the streets, equipment, training, morale, or execution? The jury is still out - maybe it is a little of everything above and more - but the Justice Department is preparing a study of the phenomenon. From that, perhaps we can better tailor how we conduct ourselves to enhance safety.
For now, you must focus on what can be done, individually and together, to keep yourselves physically and psychologically safe. You know, or should know, what to do to refresh and hone your tactics on the street. Now is a good time for a self-assessment of how you do everything, from alarms to traffic stops to high-risk arrests, with the focus on never allowing complacency to gain traction. In this article, we will focus on staying mentally and psychologically sound in the wake of these tragic stories. It is normal for cops to be emotionally impacted by the onslaught of reports, as an attack on one officer is felt as an attack on all.