Why are police being ambushed in record numbers?

A police officer is murdered every five days, and most of them never had a chance to defend themselves against their killer.  That was one of the findings in a recent report in Law Enforcement Today.  The headline of this article says it all: "Terrifying report shows that there's a record number of police officers who have been completely ambushed and murdered."

The number of police officer deaths is at a record high, primarily because of COVID, so it is easy to dismiss the 617 officers killed in the line of duty in 2021 or the 103 who have died so far this year because COVID skewed the numbers.  However, dig deeper and you find COVID isn't the only disturbing number among officer deaths.

In 2021, 73 were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2021, according to the FBI.  Almost half of these officers did not even have a chance to defend themselves.  In other words, they were ambushed.

FBI director Christopher Wray said in January, "These four murders brought the total number of officers feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2021 to 73, the highest annual number since the 9/11 attacks.  That's the equivalent of one officer murdered every five days. In a year when homicides and violent crime reached distressing levels, this 20-year high hasn't received the attention it deserves."

The Officer Down Memorial Page lists the number of felonious deaths at 111.  This is more than two officers a week killed.

Last year was the deadliest year on record for line-of-duty police, but 2022 may surpass it.  Murders of officers will likely surpass last year's number.  Already, 29 officers have been murdered this year, with only a third of the year passed.

Could we see more than 100 officers murdered this year?  That would be more than some years saw among all of their line-of-duty deaths.

So why is this happening?

Could it be that society has devalued police officer lives because of things like the BLM and Defund the Police movements?  What about the way officers now seem to automatically be at fault during an officer-involved shooting?  The stigma involved with shooting an officer may be fading.

At the same time, we are asking the officers to do more work, which wears them out and can make them less cautious.  We are also putting them on the street without the needed personal protective equipment they need.

How many of the murdered officers would still be alive if they had been wearing a bulletproof vest?

Just as police officers have a sworn duty to protect and serve the citizens in their communities, we have a duty to make sure they can do just that.  It means making sure departments are fully staffed and officers are properly trained and equipped.  It also means supporting them when they do their jobs.

Go take a look at the Officer Down Memorial Page and see the names, pictures, and stories of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to help us.  Is it too much to ask that they not be made out to be criminals?

Officer Down sculpture closeup behind Florida's Historic Capitol.

We've seen what happens when that is the case.  Crime increases, and officers die.  

Let's not make 2022 another record year in officer deaths.

Michael A. Letts is the CEO and founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs.  

Photo credit: Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

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