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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
problem.

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 Auburnpub.com.

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.

Tags: Duty Deaths, Parolees, Assaults on Officers, Crime Trends, Duty Dangers


Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

Theresa Kennedy @ 7/25/2011 8:08 PM



We need to figure something out, that changes public perception of police for young people and also for criminals, so that these unbalanced and volatile people don't direct their hate and anger onto police, using police as a scapegoat for the troubles of their lives. The numbers are getting out of hand. The social capital lost from all these felonious deaths of officers and the families left behind, its just too much. We need to think of something proactive, honest and creataive in ordedr to deal with this. The media could be used in a positive manner for this endeavor, with dissemination being the key word.

Morning Eagle @ 7/25/2011 11:40 PM

This is a very timely article. ".... the erosion of warrior ethos" is an excellent summation of the societal aspect of dealing successfully with this deeply troubling willingness to engage officers with deadly force. Society in general has gone soft and “politically correct.” That fact is being reflected in our courts, prosecutions, juries, and parole boards to the point that many people believe criminals are given more rights and consideration than their victims.

I have the utmost faith in LTC Grossman's well-researched opinions and conclusions and Mr. Webb's thoughts as quoted in the article also make some very valid points. Resolution or mitigation of this disturbing and apparently growing trend or mind-set among today's youth especially, that lawful authority can be violently resisted with little fear of the consequences will require significant changes in the head-in-the-sand denial in the upper echelon policy makers of law enforcement about what is really happening. Far too many of them have either never worked the streets or have forgotten all they ever learned about what their people are dealing with every day and have joined the ranks of the politically correct cowards that are willing to knuckle under to every accusation, or possible accusation, of profiling or discrimination based on anything or nothing but hot air. When their officers have done the right thing under the circumstances existing at the moment, supervisors and administrators all the way up the chain of command must stand solidly behind the officer(s) instead of too often throwing them to the wolves in the media and anti-police pressure groups, and sadly that sometimes includes publicity hunting prosecutors that want to appear unbiased and tough by filing charges against police officers.

Tom @ 7/26/2011 8:03 AM

The criminals don't fear repercussions and why would they. Our system
has become soft on criminals and especially on cop killers. The punishment should be timely with the offense.

Matthew Simpson @ 7/27/2011 6:53 PM

It is not the number of deaths that we should be measuring to determine increase, but the number of Assault 1st incidents Officers are involved in. We become fixated on outcome numbers, when the reality is that every incident could result in death.

This is true when measuring murder rates. sure you may have 200 from last year, but how many attempts where there. In this number you can judge the severity of the issue.

In the past two years in the Saint Louis Region these types of incidents have risen dramaticly, and subsequently so have the shooting of Police Officers and our deaths.

Bob @ 8/13/2011 3:34 PM

I just heard LTC Dave Grossman talk at TREXPO yesterday. Very impressive. He makes persuasive arguments backed by a lot of data. We have raised a generation of animals and taught them both to kill and that the repercussions will be minimal. That's a very dangerous combination.

Certainly the loss of perspective by a LE leadership obsessed with job security combined with a loss of warrior ethos in many rank-and-file doesn't help the situation. While taking a life must always be a last resort, paladins must be prepared to take that step when necessary and only when necessary.

On the flip side, it's cases like Johannes Mehserle shooting an unarmed suspect in the back while they lay on the ground, Daniel Harless in Canton, Ohio who threatened a legal concealed carrier with execution, and a number of similar incidents that provide fodder to the haters. LE must openly and transparently set a high bar for conduct and rigorously police its own if it hopes to regain ground in the public eye. Granted that the liberal media amplifies the perceptions and hate, but it's counter-productive to provide them free material.

To that end, I agree with LTC Grossman that LE must reach out to and leverage armed citizens, especially concealed carriers. CCW holders have had FBI background checks at a minimum and statistics show that they obey the law at a much higher rate than even LEOs.

The overall goal must be to make civilized society a hard target for both psychopathic killers and terrorists. These two groups can and must be deterred and the threats eliminated when they materialize. If you've ever traveled around Israel, you know what's possible in hardening a free society. LE can't do it alone.

Chuck Helmke @ 8/25/2011 12:42 PM

Regarding "Going Hands on"
When your Taser fails, when your mace fails, when your baton fails,
and finally, when your gun fails, THEN go "Hands On"

darell chavez @ 8/25/2011 2:03 PM

Some of these comments hit the nail on the head. Try policing here in New Mexico where assaulting a police officer is a misdemeanor and usually gets pleaded down to disorderly conduct and then you get sued for excessive force afterward. That's only the tip of the iceberg since most crimes here are pled down or dismissed altogether, creating case law that gives the criminals more rights than law abiding citizens. If you truly have a passion for law enforcement and don't mind doing it with one hand tied behind your back this is the place to be since throughout your career you'll have accumulated enough knowledge about the law to be a lawyer by necessity.

LT @ 8/25/2011 5:35 PM

Canadian Law is based on restorative justice. However restorative justice is good on a case by case level. I completely agree with upper management being out of touch with the street. The Commanding officer of F-Division changed the rules making everyone who was not front line, go to a different detachment through out the province to work shifts on the street. The people who have been in plain clothes sections for the last 20 years were given a first hand idea of how much things have changed. Policing is a parishable skill, you get acustomed to your area in which you work. I don't know the first thing about forensics however as a front line member I know how to chase suspects, effect arrests and calm people at a high stress complaints. I believe that this should be standard practice through all police forces. The commanding officer of the division was working with a 3 year member responding to domestic assault complaints in the middle of the night in -30 C weather. That not only show's excellent leadership but he saw first hand what the members are working with...

icephoenix51 @ 8/26/2011 4:37 PM

I would like to know where Ridgeway gets his data. Cab drivers and bartenders face the same threats as law enforcement officers with a higher rate of fatality? I'm not sure he knows the difference between apples and oranges. The deaths in other professions such as fishing, crabbing, logging, construction, etc. come from accidents; not from being murdered as the law enforcement officers are. Calling law enforcement a safe profession simply because the total number of deaths are lower is a tell-tale sign that society doesn't want to look at the officer's deaths as murder. I also agree with a previous post that all violent data towards officers be considered when trying to show the enormity of this problem of violence toward the peace keepers. LTC Grossman has researched and produced qualitative data for his stance and I thank him for not being politically correct. Maybe others will follow his lead, Eric Holder can you take a hint. Stay safe my brothers and sisters.

Richard Allen @ 8/27/2011 3:18 PM

Sadly, the few bad cops out there ruin it for all the good cops. Being a minority, I was always told I would be targeted. I never believed it till it happened to me...twice. Was arrested by a cop because he found a kitchen knife in a box in my car after I told him that I was moving to a new apartment. I also told him what was in the boxes, but he still saw fit to go through every box just so he could find something to arrest me for. The charges were later dropped, but not after I had to spit out $500 for a lawyer to fight it. It's crap like that that makes people hate cops. I've met one really great cop that helped me when I was in Round Rock, TX. He was truly what I feel a great cop should be. Caring, understanding, but still tough. Where ever he is now, I hope he is doing well. To all the good cops out there, I wish you nothing but safe days and nights. To all the bad cops, just quit so we can have "real" good guys watching out streets.

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