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Mark Rivera

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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.

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What Gets You Killed

A decade of FBI statistics reveals the types of incidents, assignments, and circumstances most likely to result in the felonious killing of an officer.

August 09, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Rifles were also particularly devastating weapons in the hands of cop killers. Rifles can easily defeat most law enforcement body armor, so a rise in rifle attacks would be particularly alarming. Rifle murders of officers had been trending down since 2004 when 13 officers were killed with rifles. But they spiked in 2009, claiming 15 officers' lives. In total, 94 officers were shot and killed with rifles in the last decade, accounting for 19 percent of all firearm murders of officers and 17 percent of all felonious cop killings.

Edged weapons are very unlikely to be used in a cop killing in the U.S. This does not mean that cops aren't attacked with knives; they certainly are. But it does mean that these weapons are not as lethal or as commonly used in attacks on officers as guns. In the last decade, three officers were killed with blades.

A much more likely non-firearm weapon for a cop killing than a knife is a car or truck. From 2000 to 2009, 38 officers were intentionally killed by people who targeted them with motor vehicles. That's just seven percent of all cop killings during the last decade, but it's 83 percent of all non-firearm murders of officers.

Note: The FBI statistics for officers killed from 2000 to 2009 do not include the 72 officers killed in the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001.

Mortal Wounds

The FBI statistics for the last decade do not reveal any clear trends on shot placement by cop killers.

However, the vast majority of fatal wounds inflicted on officers appear to be head shots, 243 out of 490, nearly 50 percent. The reason that this is so is not readily clear. Head shots are generally more lethal than body shots, so it stands to reason that a large number of officers killed by firearms would be hit in the head.

Fortunately, there does not appear to be a growing trend among cop killers to aim for the head. In 2001, 34 officers were killed by head shots. This number dropped to 29 the next year, 19 in 2003, and 18 in 2008. In 2009, the last year measured, 23 officers were killed by head shots.

The prevalence of head wounds in the FBI statistics is clear, but cops are also still falling from chest wounds. In the last decade, 135 officers were killed by bullets to the chest, accounting for 28 percent of all fatal firearms wounds among officers.

As with head wounds, there appears to be no trend in the prevalence of chest wounds in the killing of officers. In 2004, 19 officers were killed by gunshot wounds to the chest. This number dropped to 14 in 2005 and 11 in 2006. But it climbed back up to 19 in 2007 before dropping to seven in 2008 and leveling off at 11 in 2009.

Armor On or Off

The statistics on chest shots raise questions of body armor use by the fallen officers. But just because an officer was killed by a shot to the chest does not necessarily mean that he or she was working without a vest. Some officers are killed undercover, in plain clothes, and even off duty. Also, some officers wearing armor are killed by chest shots that overwhelm the armor such as rifle fire.

Unfortunately, the FBI stats do not drill down deep enough into this issue. They merely list whether officers were wearing armor at the time of their murders.

Out of 536 officers feloniously killed from 2000 to 2009, 341 were wearing armor. That's a solid 63 percent, and even 36 officers who were killed out of uniform were wearing armor.

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