Law Enforcement Officers Killed in 2008
In a dramatic reversal from 2007, the year 2008 saw the fewest officers killed by gunfire in 50 years; however, a record number of female officers died. The year 2008 ended as one of the safest years for U.S. law enforcement officers in decades.
Based on analysis of preliminary data, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) found that 140 officers died in the line of duty last year. That is 23 percent lower than the 2007 figure of 181 and represents one of the lowest numbers for officer fatalities since the mid-1960s.
The 2008 reduction includes a steep, 40 percent drop in the number of officers who were shot and killed, from 68 in 2007 to 41 in 2008. The last time firearms-related fatalities were this low was 1956, when there were 35 such deaths. The 2008 figure is 74 percent lower than the total for 1973, when a near-record high of 156 law enforcement officers were shot and killed.
“2007 was a wake-up call for law enforcement in our country, and law enforcement executives, officers, associations and trainers clearly heeded the call, with a renewed emphasis on officer safety training, equipment and procedures,” said NLEOMF chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “The reduction in firearms-related deaths is especially stunning, given the tremendous firepower possessed by so many criminals today. The fact that law enforcement has been able to drive down the crime rate, and do so with increased efficiency and safety, is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our officers,” Floyd added.
“Concerns of Police Survivors is pleased to see the reduction in officer deaths for 2008 and hopes this is a trend we will see year after year. But we also know that for each of the surviving families and coworkers, their one officer is one too many,” said C.O.P.S. national president Jennifer Thacker. “These families, coworkers, and agencies are struggling to cope with life without their officer and will need support from C.O.P.S. before, during, and long after National Police Week. C.O.P.S. will continue its efforts to provide life-rebuilding support and resources for 2008 surviving families and affected coworkers, as well as past-year survivors, to help them rebuild their shattered lives. We will embrace these families and affected coworkers and assure them there is no fee to join C.O.P.S., for the price paid is already too high,” she said.
In 2008, for the 11th year in a row, more law enforcement officers, 71, died in traffic-related incidents than from gunfire or any other single cause of death. Mirroring the nationwide drop in traffic fatalities among the general public this year, the number of officers killed in traffic incidents was down 14 percent from 2007. Last year, a record high of 83 officers died on U.S. roadways. Of this year’s traffic-related fatalities, 44 officers died in automobile crashes, 10 died in motorcycle crashes, and 17 were struck and killed by other vehicles.
Among other causes of death, 17 officers succumbed to job-related physical illnesses; three died in aircraft accidents; two were fatally stabbed; two died in bomb-related incidents; and one each was beaten to death, drowned, was accidentally electrocuted, and died in a train accident.
Fifteen of the officers killed this year were women, equaling the all-time high, set in 2002. The year 2008 marked the first time that more than 10 percent of the officers who died in a year were female. Among all officers killed in 2008, the average age was 40, and the officers had served an average of 12 years in law enforcement.
The statistics released by the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. are preliminary and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this year. The report, “Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: Preliminary 2008 Report,” is available at http://www.nleomf.org/TheMemorial/Facts/2008_endyear_report.pdf . For information on the programs that C.O.P.S. offers to the surviving families of fallen U.S. law enforcement officers, readers can visit www.nationalcops.org .
IACP CD-ROM on Preventing Law Enforcement Officer Suicide
In a CD-ROM presentation, the IACP is providing detailed guidance for developing a law enforcement suicide prevention program that uses public health principles. Guidelines are categorized by stages, with the first stage being problem identification, followed in succession by the stages of resource assessment, the identification of risk and protective factors, the development and piloting of intervention strategies, and program implementation and evaluation.
The next section of the CD-ROM presents sample suicide prevention materials that have been used by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Five sample brochures provide information on officers’ recognition of their own need for assistance and resources for help, as well as how to manage grief. Four sample posters provide messages on suicide prevention.
The third section of the CD-ROM contains examples of training presentations, videos, and brochures used by law enforcement agencies in their efforts to prevent officer suicide. The fourth section of the CD-ROM is composed of numerous PowerPoint presentations on a variety of suicide-related topics. General suicide presentations address a national strategy of suicide prevention, suicide epidemiology in the United States, trends in rates and methods of suicide, and Florida’s commitment to suicide prevention.
Four presentations are overviews of law enforcement officer suicide. Topics covered include the risk of suicide for police officers, police occupational stress, the law enforcement culture and how it affects officers and their families, and law enforcement suicide prevention and intervention. The fifth section of the CD-ROM provides sample funeral protocols for officers who have committed suicide, death notifications, and other related materials.
To obtain a copy of the CD-ROM, readers can contact Kim Kohlhepp at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 237, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Policing stadium crowds is a difficult task. Spectator aggression is often only one of many public safety concerns. Police are forced to balance the interests of such parties as performers, who want audience participation, with those of owners and vendors, who wish to generate profits. Obviously, police cannot address all causes of spectator violence. It would be difficult to convince sports team owners that they should discourage highly dedicated fans. In addition, police must protect spectators’ rights while maintaining an orderly environment. Police should not tolerate property destruction and threats or acts of violence.
The six most common forms of spectator aggression are as follows:
- Verbal: Singing, chanting, and yelling taunts or obscenities
- Gesturing: Signaling to others with threatening or obscene motions
- “Missile” throwing: Throwing items such as food, drinks, bricks, bottles, broken seats, and cellular telephones at particular or random targets
- Warming: Rushing the field or stage and trying to crash the gates to gain entry or rushing the exit, both of which may result in injury or death from trampling
- Property destruction: Knocking down sound systems, tearing up the playing field, and burning/damaging the venue or others’ property
- Physical assault: Incidents of spitting, kicking, or shoving; fistfights; stabbings; and shootings
Organized violence is very rare in the United States and is seen more often in European sport matches that attract large numbers of hardcore fans from other countries. These fans form “gangs” who attend events with the specific intention of causing a disturbance. U.S. events tend to experience more spontaneous violence resulting from an overzealous or intoxicated crowd (for example, wild dancing in a so-called mosh pit). It is important to distinguish between organized and spontaneous violence, since each type requires different solutions.
In the recently published report Spectator Violence in Stadiums from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, recommendations for the local community in addressing this problem are provided. The publication is available for downloading at http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/files/RIC/Publications/e080828167.pdf . ?