Cops Keep Getting Killed – Highest Rate Since 2008

April 10, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: rising numbers of police officers are being killed.

According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 72 officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008.

The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents, according to data compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The number was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

While a majority of officers were killed in smaller cities, 13 were killed in cities of 250,000 or more. New York City lost two officers last year. On Sunday, four were wounded by a gunman in Brooklyn, bringing to eight the number of officers shot in the city since December.

“We haven’t seen a period of this type of violence in a long time,” said Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly of the New York Police Department.

While the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials cannot fully explain the reasons for the rise in officer homicides, they are clear about the devastating consequences.

“In this law enforcement job, when you pin this badge on and go out on calls, when you leave home, you ain’t got a promise that you will come back,” said Sheriff Ray Foster of Buchanan County, Va. Two of his deputies were killed in March 2011 and two wounded — one of them paralyzed — by a man with a high-powered rifle.

“That was 80 percent of my day shift,” he said.

After a spate of killings in early 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked federal authorities to work with local police departments to try to come up with solutions to the problem.

The F.B.I., which has tracked officer deaths since 1937, paid for a study conducted by John Jay College that found that in many cases the officers were trying to arrest or stop a suspect who had previously been arrested for a violent crime.

That prompted the F.B.I. to change what information it will provide to local police departments, the officials said. Starting this year, when police officers stop a car and call its license plate into the F.B.I.’s database, they will be told whether the owner of the vehicle has a violent history. Through the first three months of this year, the number of police fatalities has dropped, though it is unclear why.

Some law enforcement officials believe that techniques pioneered by the New York Police Department over the past two decades and adopted by other departments may have put officers at greater risk by encouraging them to conduct more street stops and to seek out and confront suspects who seem likely to be armed. In New York and elsewhere, police officials moved more officers into crime-ridden areas.

“This technique has become more popular across the country as smaller departments have followed the larger cities and tried to prevent crime,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Unlike several decades ago, there is this expectation that police matter and that police can make a difference.”

Commissioner Kelly said, “We try to put those officers where there is the most potential for violence.” However, he pointed out that most of the officers who have been shot in New York since December were not part of a proactive police deployment but were responding to emergencies.

Some argue that the rise in violence is linked to the tough economy. With less money, some states are releasing prisoners earlier; police departments, after years of staffing increases, have been forced to make cutbacks.

“A lot of these killings aren’t happening in major urban areas,” said James W. McMahon, chief of staff for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “One of the concerns we are looking at is that a number of officers are being laid off or furloughed or not replaced.”

The police chief in Camden, N.J., J. Scott Thomson, whose force of 400 was cut by nearly half last year because of financing issues, said that having fewer officers on the street “makes it that much more difficult to create an environment in which criminals do not feel as emboldened to assault another person, let alone a law enforcement officer.”

The murder of a veteran officer last April in Chattanooga, Tenn., was typical of many of the 2011 episodes.

Sgt. Tim Chapin, a veteran nearing retirement, rushed to provide backup to officers who had responded to reports of a robbery outside a pawnshop and were under fire. Sergeant Chapin got out of his car and chased the fleeing suspect, who had been convicted of armed robbery. During the pursuit, the sergeant was fatally shot in the head.

As part of the F.B.I.’s efforts to prevent officer deaths, the bureau trains thousands of officers each year, highlighting shootings like the one in Chattanooga to teach officers about situations in which they are most vulnerable. Those situations are typically pursuits, traffic stops and arrests, said Michelle S. Klimt, a top F.B.I. official at its Criminal Justice Information Services Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., who oversees officer training.

“Every stop can be potentially fatal, so we are trying to make sure the officers are ready and prepared every single day they go out,” Ms. Klimt said. “We try and teach that every day you go out, you are going to be encountered with deadly force by someone trying to kill you.”

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10 Dead And Many Injuries In Crashes After Dumbass Florida State Police Troopers Reopened Smoke Covered Interstate

February 4, 2012

FLORIDA – Florida authorities had reopened a section of Interstate 75 barely half an hour before a pileup on the smoke-shrouded highway that killed 10 people over the weekend, a state Highway Patrol spokesman said Monday.

The interstate was closed for about three hours early Sunday, after a pair of late-Saturday crashes on I-75 and nearby U.S. 441, just south of Gainesville, Lt. Patrick Riordan told reporters Monday afternoon. Troopers, state Department of Transportation officials and local sheriff’s deputies reopened the road after determining that conditions were improving, he said.

Riordan said the interstate reopened at 3:26 a.m. Thirty-three minutes later, callers began to report chain-reaction crashes in both the north and southbound lanes of I-75.

“I can’t see anything. It’s so dense — the fog is so dense — and we just hit a guardrail, and I think there was another accident behind us,” the first caller told an Alachua County sheriff’s dispatcher.

The bangs of several subsequent crashes could be heard in the background of nearly 13 minutes of 911 recordings released Monday. The voices on the calls reflected the fear and confusion of the predawn scene.

“Here comes another one. He’s coming too fast. Here comes another one. Oh, yep — see, there he goes … that one was a bad one,” one woman told dispatchers.

In the end, at least 12 passenger cars and seven semis were involved in the crashes. Subsequent fires burned three of the 10 dead “to a point where positive ID has been a hurdle for us,” Riordan said. He said state troopers “did their due diligence” before reopening the road, but, “Sometime after the roadway was reopened, the conditions changed quickly.”

In the wake of the crashes, he said the Highway Patrol would “review this situation and determine if our process needs to be changed.”

“Certainly, we’re open to that,” he said. But he added, “All drivers need to be prepared to change their driving based on the roadway conditions.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he has asked the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances behind the crash, promising to make “any and all resources” available for the investigation.

“We will also fully cooperate with any federal investigation which may occur,” Scott said in a written statement. “During this tragic time, our thoughts and prayers should be with the victims and their families.”

Steven Camps, one of the survivors, told CNN that all he could hear after the crashes stopped was the sound of crying. The air, heavy with smoke, shone red from vehicle fires.

“It was just so crazy,” he said. “We were just sitting in the car, and all of this came out of nowhere.”

Camps said he was returning to Gainesville from Micanopy, about 12 miles away, with a friend early Sunday when traffic came to a stop on the interstate in what looked like heavy fog. He was a passenger in the car, and said they were talking to a man in a stopped car in the next lane about the low visibility when they began hearing crashes from behind them.

The car next to them “literally almost went under (a) semi-truck,” he said. “We saw that guy die after talking to him before we could even react.”

He said the car he was riding in was then struck twice. He was not hurt badly, but his friend could “barely even move,” he said. Camps pulled his friend from their car, which wound up wedged between two tractor-trailers, to the median, where they prayed that another car would not leave the roadway and hit them.

“As it was happening on the northbound side, it was happening on the southbound side as well,” he said. “There was nowhere to go. It was just cars hitting cars and cars.”

The Miami-to-Michigan interstate was open again Monday, but the National Weather Services said patches of smoke were likely to hang over the area into Tuesday.

The smoke is from a brush fire at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The blaze, called the Boardwalk Fire, was 100% contained but was not considered controlled, Ludie Bond, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Gainesville area, said Monday.

While fire lines were in place, active smoke could linger for weeks to months, she said.

Camps said he received stitches in his leg and was released from a hospital. He said his friend was still hospitalized but may be released soon. He said he was “blessed” — “If you saw the car, you’d be like, ‘How did you live?’ “

Shands Hospital at the University of Florida received a total of 18 patients, six with serious injuries, said Dr. Timothy Flynn, the hospital’s chief medical officer. Eight of the remaining 12 were treated and released, he said.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Monday that a total of 21 people were taken to hospitals.

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