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With just hours remaining until we ring in 2022, it's time for our annual retrospective on the year that was 2021—and what a year it was.

First and foremost we must remember the fallen. According to ODMP, there were a total of 481 line-of-duty deaths in 2021. This is subject to change.

The vast majority of LODDs reported this year resulted—for the second straight year—from COVID-19. A total of 323 officers reportedly died either from complications associated with the virus, or had contracted the virus and died due to other unreported co-morbidity.

All law enforcement deaths are equally tragic, but for the purposes of this discussion, let's set aside the numbers of those who succumbed to Coronavirus and examine those which have traditionally been the reasons our officers have been killed.

There were 158 LODDs attributed to the more "traditional" causes—very close to the annual average of 164 per year over the past decade.

This number doesn't include possibly the most preventable duty-related deaths: suicide. At the time of this writing, 164 police officers have died by suicide in 2021. The world is better with you in it—please know that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. Safe Call Now (1-206-459-3020) offers those services specifically for first responders.

The largest number of "recognized" duty deaths came from gunfire, with 60 officers being murdered in this fashion. Next is automobile crash (22), followed by heart attack (18), vehicular assault (17), and struck by vehicle (14). Other causes of death ranged from assault to weather.

This column is dedicated to the friends, family members, and fellow officers of those fallen heroes who were taken from us this year.

Criminal Activity

No history of 2021 should begin with anything other than the ghastly "new normal" of rampant criminal behavior in the America's largest cities.

At least 12 major U.S. cities have broken annual homicide records in 2021, including Albuquerque, Austin, Baton Rouge, Indianapolis, Louisville, Louisville, Philadelphia, Toledo, and Tucson. Then there's the Windy City. In Chicago, more than 740 people have been murdered (and still counting, because there's still time left on the clock to run up the score).

Property crimes are also on the rise. The National Retail Federation (NRF) surveyed retailers across the country on the topic and found that most respondents believe that the increase in organized retail crime (ORC) incidents "may be a result of changing laws and penalties for shoplifting."

For example, in California, Prop 47—which turns theft of $1,000 in goods from a felony to a misdemeanor—is almost certainly to blame for the rise in crime there.

Walgreens issued a statement in conjunction with its decision to close more than a dozen retail locations in San Francisco, saying, in part, that the company had "increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment."

As 2021 wore on, ORC attacks began to target high-end luxury retailers in places like LA's Grove, Chicago's Magnificent Mile, and New York's Fifth Avenue.

Crime has become pandemic.

Court Cases

Three major criminal court proceedings dominated the news over the past 12 months. Most recently, of course, is the guilty verdict reached against former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter in the death of a 20-year-old suspected of attempted armed robbery of a female acquaintance as well as violating the conditions of his release, including a prohibition against firearms possession.

Potter claimed in court that she thought she was drawing her TASER, and can be heard on the body camera video of the incident indeed calling out, "TASER! TASER! TASER!" before firing a fatal shot from her sidearm.

The verdict in this case is terrible (and in my personal opinion, completely unjust and incorrect), but should also give police trainers and policy makers immediate impetus to address the use of the ECD. Many experts have long advocated for solutions such as cross-draw of the ECD, or training only to use the device with the support-side hand as safeguards against so-called "TASER confusion" which first made national headlines twelve years ago with the New Year's Eve death of a man on a commuter rail platform in Oakland in 2009.

Then there was the case of fired Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on all three charges he faced in the death of George Floyd—second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. This verdict was as easy to predict as the coming dawn. What Derek Chauvin did was unreasonable and inexcusable—he didn't have to hold Floyd in the prone position—handcuffed and face-down—for nine and a half minutes. He let his ego overtake self-control, and his actions altered the course of history, arguably causing many millions of dollars in damage across the country.

There were other cases, of course, but these two probably will have the most far-reaching impact moving forward.

COVID Continues

Finally, any recap of 2021 that doesn't include the continued challenges presented by COVID19 is getting it all wrong—this was one of the biggest stories of the year in America.

There have been numerous heavy-handed attempts to force people into taking one of the three available COVID vaccines, despite individuals' objections on the basis of religion, or heath, or other personal reasons.

As I wrote earlier this year, I'm pro-vaccine but also anti-mandate. I believe that it makes sense to wear a seatbelt while driving and a floatation device when boating. But I believe this to be a decision left to every individual based on their own risk assessment.

Draconian mandates are at best counterproductive, and at worst, the foundation for an Orwellian tomorrow.

Looking to Twenty-Two

I try to look at life with a sort of cautious optimism. Not blind, ignorant hope based on emotion, but a default setting in which I hope for the best but plan for the worst. Expect nothing and you'll never be disappointed. Find the fertilizer in the pile of ____.

I've often written about the anti-cop vitriol plaguing the public dialog, but always tampered it with something along the lines of, "The vast majority of Americans support and respect the police..."

I still believe that statement to be true, but I would be lying if I told you I thought 2022 is going to be better than 2021.

I don't think that for even a second.

I saw a social media meme on the Internet that just about sums it up: "I just realized that 2022 is pronounced, 'Twenty-twenty, too'." Needless to say, 2020 suu...uuu...cked, and 2021 wasn't much better.

I have a dark expectation that 2022 will bring much of the same that plagued us in 2021. I predict more acrimony over COVID. I forecast more crime committed by more brazen criminals. I expect more anti-cop sentiment in the streets.

I hope that despite how bad it may get, each of you continues to know that somewhere out there in the world, there are people who believe in you, love you, and desperately want you to succeed.

Be well and stay safe my friends.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Contributing Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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