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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.

Cover Story

Line-of-Duty Deaths: The War on Cops

Since the beginning of the year, more than 31 officers have been feloniously killed. Is this just one bad year or a portent of things to come?

July 25, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Probation Nation

Some researchers argue that Grossman's concerns about a generation of programmed killers are overblown. But others point to popular entertainment as one of many influences on a generation of young men who have embraced criminality and a criminal lifestyle. Many of these young men have served time, don't want to go back, and are willing to kill cops to stay free.

Ex-cons represent 74 percent of cop killers so far this year. In an ideal world, this population would have no access to firearms. Some see this as an argument for more gun control while others argue that guns are not the problem, revolving door justice without sufficient parole oversight is the

Grossman argues that revolving door justice and entertainment industry influence combine to make bad guys more willing to attack law enforcement officers.

"All of these social factors intersected to give us the killer of four cops in a coffee shop in Lakewood, Wash.," explains Grossman. "He did not know those officers. He killed them because of the uniform they wore. When people who don't know you kill you because of the uniform you wear, there's a word for that. It's called 'war.' The gangs, backed by video games and movies and the whole cop-hating aspect of our news media and society, have declared war on cops."

Jeff Chudwin, president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association and chief of the Olympia Fields (Ill.) Police Department, agrees that the effect of violent media on at-risk individuals is a serious matter that cannot be ignored.

"Not every kid who watches video games becomes a mass murderer," Chudwin acknowledges. "But I believe that those who are looking for some type of violent ending gain some type of momentum or strength from this. Today's criminals are simply more willing to fight than be taken into custody. You can't treat it as a novelty. You have to treat it as a fact of life."

Resisting Authority

Grossman's assertions are alarming, but what's really distressing is that some researchers believe fundamental changes in society are behind the rise in violence against cops.

Jon Shane, a criminal justice professor at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, cites several studies that suggest increased violence against officers may be a byproduct of the erosion of authority in parent-child, teacher-student, and government-civilian relationships and a willingness of citizens to question governmental authority with escalating degrees of resistance.

Howard Webb, executive director of the American Council on Criminal Justice Training, has also observed a general lack of civility and respect for authority among today's youths.

"You have a generation of children who have never been disciplined or experienced the word 'no' who are now becoming adults," Webb says. "So time and again the first real challenge that they get from authority is in the form of law enforcement, and they act out violently."

Shane says this is leading people to challenge authority more willingly. "People who are doing this are finding support with their peers. No one is condemning their actions. Resisting police in a physical way seems like the next logical step," he told

Head Shots

Another factor in the rising police body count is that criminals have increased their level of tactical sophistication and weaponry. They are even compensating for our protective measures, going for larger caliber weapons and head shots. All but one of the 56 murders of officers in 2010 were effected by means of a gun. Thirty-eight of the officers killed were wearing body armor at the time of their shootings.

By targeting officers north of their body armor, donning their own ballistic-resistant vests, and arming themselves with multiple weapons, criminals are keeping themselves engaged in the fight longer. By protracting confrontations with law enforcement, suspects are able to migrate from one area to another, often taking the fight to their home turf. Suspects have even rigged explosives within their own residences and vehicles with the intent of killing more officers after their own deaths. Armed with the home field advantage, the suspect retains the upper hand.

Behind the Curve

Dragged into this dance of death, officers invariably operate at a deficit. Law enforcement cannot conduct preemptive strikes like the military. Officers are obligated to the perpetual role of reactor. Furthermore, when a debilitating shot is taken by either the suspect or the officer, the officer invariably comes out on the losing end of the equation. While the officer will typically use just the amount of force required to subdue the attacker, the suspect in a similar situation will almost always finish the job.

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