Too many officers died in 2011
Photo credit: John Wills
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.
What can street cops do to fix this? We can start by letting our voices be heard in the areas of media and unions. Get the word out that our lifeline, our training, has been severed. Sit down with community leaders and police unions and get them riled up. No one can convince me that cities and towns aren’t throwing money away on things they shouldn’t. One only needs look at things like chauffer driven limos for politicians, gala events for celebrities, escorts for those who don’t need them and shouldn’t have them. The list is endless. That kind of wasted money could and should be spent on our cops and their training and equipment.
Just as important is what we can do to make ourselves safer. Traffic accident deaths are one area we can take responsibility for. Careless and over-aggressive driving is something we can fix. The notion that lights and sirens magically create an opening for us through traffic must be disabused. Most people are not aware a cop is behind them or about to cross their path. Smart phones, ear buds and powerful in-car stereos have all but eliminated the chance anyone will see or hear an emergency vehicle. We must be cognizant of that fact and drive as if our emergency equipment isn’t on.
In the area of firearms, even if our department has reduced the number of quals we can still practice by using simulators and/or dry firing. Each time you have your weapon in your hand it breeds familiarity with that tool so that it becomes an extension of your hand. You should also be constantly working on something that few of us practice: weapon retention. In 2010, of the 56 cops killed by firearms, 7 were murdered with their own weapons.
One other area of personal responsibility we can work on is fitness. The 2011 stats for officer fatalities indicate that physical-related incidents increased by 93%, up from 14 fatalities in 2010. The big killer was heart attacks which took 12 officers’ lives. If we are going to get serious about preparing ourselves for the street each day, that prep has to include some type of fitness regime. A Warrior should not enter the arena without having every tool and advantage at their disposal. Being fit is the easiest yet most essential ingredient to ensure we will win.
The new year has begun and just one month into it we already have 4 officers killed by gunfire. We can change things and make sure that 2012 has a much brighter ending than we saw in 2011. Some of responsibility rests on each of our shoulders. Get inspired, get tough, get mad. Do whatever it takes to win and go home to your loved ones each day. Let’s make 2012 a safe year for Warriors.
Stay safe, Brothers and Sisters!
- NLEOMF Officer Fatality Data
- LivSafe--Stay Aware, Stay Safe!
- Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles in the Windy City by John Wills
- Gripped By Fear by John Wills
About The Author:
John M. Wills spent 33 years in law enforcement as a Chicago Police Officer and FBI Special Agent (Ret). He is a Freelance Writer and Speaker whose third book, TARGETED, is now available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Contact John through his website: www.johnmwills.com.