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Patrol

Surge in LE Killings Underscores Need to Be Vigilant

November 29, 2016  |  by ALADS Board of Directors

The recent spate of ambushes and assassinations of law enforcement officers continues the year of deadly violence against law enforcement officers simply because they are wearing a uniform. None of us should act as if it's business as usual and that we cannot become a victim of this violence.

By now we are all familiar with the tragic events of last Sunday, in which four shootings in Texas, Florida, and Missouri resulted in one officer killed and three seriously wounded. It appears that three of the shootings specifically targeted officers and that at least two were ambushes.

These vicious attacks continue a pattern of violence that began in July with the ambush killings of five Dallas police officers and three officers in Baton Rouge. It has continued unabated since then - nowhere more than in California.

In the past two months, five California law enforcement officers have been murdered, including our own Sgt. Steve Owen, who was brutally gunned down execution style on Oct. 5 while responding to a residential burglary call in Lancaster. That same month, Palm Springs Police Officers Jose Vega and Lesley Zerebny were shot and killed while responding to a disturbance call, as was Modoc County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Hopkins. This month, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Wallace was executed while investigating a suspicious car and person.

These killings are part of a rising tide of violence against law enforcement officers. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 60 officers have been gunned down nationwide this year through Nov. 21 - far more than the 36 killed in 2015.  We may not yet know the individual motivations behind last weekend's shooting, but in each, the result was the same.  In each, there was a targeted, directed effort to kill police.

There has been a concerted effort, among certain segments of society, to demonize police. Protest groups would have you believe that every officer who shoots a suspect is a murderer. The media often rushes to publish accounts of "witnesses" to shootings, only to see their accounts later disproved by body camera or other video recordings. Of course, by the time the witness is disproved, a narrative has been established and the truth often no longer matters.

This past week, an in-depth study by John Lott, Jr. of the  Crime Prevention Research Center examined 2,699 fatal police shootings between 2013-2015, covering a period before the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The study found that white police officers are not significantly more likely to kill an African American suspect, there was no statistical difference between killings of black suspects by black or white officers. Killings of white and Hispanic suspects had no differences based on the races of police officers. The study also concluded body cameras had little effect on decreasing law enforcement shootings.  Instead, the largest single deterrent to a police shooting was more law enforcement on scene. The study supports ALADS' position that body worn cameras are a useful addendum to the observations and recollections of deputies and other witnesses. Body worn cameras will serve to protect law enforcement from frivolous complaints and help prosecute criminals who gas or attack deputies while they work in the jail or on patrol.

Sadly, it is not possible to prevent every attack on a law enforcement officer. But we must respond to the growing threat we're facing by being more vigilant than ever. That includes remaining extra alert and aware even during the seemingly innocuous, routine encounters we have every day.

We cannot let our guards down; our lives depend on it.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.


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