SEATTLE (AP) — The shooting deaths of two Connecticut officers and the wounding of a third have punctuated a particularly violent week for police across the United States and are part of a grim pattern: even if more officers quit their jobs in the past two years, rose targeted and killed numbers.
According to organizations that track violence against police, 56 officers have been shot and killed this year, 14% more than the same time last year and around 45% ahead of the 2020 pace. country is on course for the deadliest year as 67 officers were killed in 2016.
While the figures include a few officers killed by accidental gunfire, the number of ambushes in which police officers were injured or killed in surprise attacks with little chance of defending themselves has soared since 2020 and represents nearly half of the officers killed this year.
Such an attack apparently hit Wednesday in Bristol, Connecticut, where State Police said Bristol Police Sgt. Dustin Demonte and Officer Alex Hamzy were killed and Officer Alec Iurato was injured when they responded to a 911 call which appears to have been “a deliberate act to draw law enforcement to the scene “.
At least 11 police officers have been shot nationwide this week, including one fatally in Greenville, Mississippi, and another in Las Vegas.
“These are truly frightening numbers for law enforcement, not just for individual officers, but for the organizations they work for, who need to take this into account when hiring, retaining and training officers,” said Bill Alexander, Executive Director. of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which tracks the deaths of officers in the line of duty.
“It’s not lost on the officers that the job they signed up for has become more dangerous,” he said. “It has to have a big mental impact on the agencies as a whole and the individual agents doing the work.”
An officer on leave was among five people killed in a shooting by a 15-year-old boy in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday night, but it was unclear whether the officer was targeted. In late June, a man in the foothills of Appalachia in eastern Kentucky opened fire on officers serving a warrant in a domestic violence case, killing three people and injuring five others. a scene MPs described as “pure hell”.
The Fraternal Order of Police reported that up to September 30 this year there had been 63 ambush attacks in which officers were injured, with 93 officers shot, 24 fatally. That’s a lower number of such attacks than in the first nine months of 2021, when there were 75 officer ambushes, with 93 shot and 21 killed. The total number of ambushes in which police officers were injured last year more than doubled compared to 2020.
The increase in police ambushes and killings comes at a time when many departments across the country are facing staffing shortages, with some agencies losing hundreds of officers and struggling to fill vacancies.
COVID-19 has been the biggest killer of police officers in recent years, with 280 deaths in 2020, 467 in 2021 and 64 so far this year, the Memorial page of the shot officer reports. But many officers have taken early retirement or resigned in frustration over what they see as dwindling public support amid the ‘defund the police’ efforts sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer and the deaths of other black people at the hands of law enforcement.
The number of officers nationwide has increased from about 719,000 in 2020 to 688,000 in 2021, according to data reported to the FBI. Hiring of officers has rebounded this year, but resignations and retirements continue to pose a challenge for departments across the country, the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum found in a survey earlier this year. This year.
Mike Zaro is the police chief of Lakewood, Wash., a town of about 60,000 people where four officers were murdered in a coffee shop in 2009. He was the deputy chief at the time, and he said the department continues to see officers retire early due to anxiety and stress dating back to the attack.
“I started in the early 90s, and back then and for a long time, you sucked it in and moved on whenever you faced work-related trauma, whether it was someone else or yours,” Zaro said. “After 2009, something of this magnitude, we recognized that we had to try to do something different. We worked on the fly to develop methods to encourage people to seek help. … Eventually, it became embedded in what we do. Today, it’s called officer welfare.
Zaro remembers how crucial community support was in helping the department overcome the aftermath of the killings. Such support, he said, is essential to help officers accept the risks they face.
Many law enforcement supporters worry whether ministries still enjoy such support, given the tenor of the national discourse on policing. They point out that questionable or unlawful use of force by officers is the rare exception, not the rule, but police have lost the trust of many outraged at repeatedly seeing cellphone or body camera video in line of agents abusing their power.
“It would be infinitely more difficult to accept those risks and deal with the loss if the community suggests the officers deserved it or makes excuses for the person who committed the crime or just doesn’t support them,” said Zaro. “It’s more imperative now to make it part of the conversation, given the attacks on police we’ve seen across the country over the past two years.”
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