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The clock on the year 2022 is running rapidly down to zero. Consequently—and quite predictably—it is time for our annual retrospectives on the year that was.

So let's look back at some of trends and topics to have been the focus of attention every Friday morning for the past four dozen weeks and change.

Before we do that, we must first and foremost honor the fallen.

At the time of this writing—with still more than a week remaining in the calendar year—there was a total of 225 line-of-duty deaths in 2022. For the third straight year, COVID was the leading cause of death (73 officers), followed closely by gunfire (58 officers) and automobile crash (32 officers).

Police officer suicide remains a terrible and persistent plague on the profession, with149 officers reportedly lost to suicide this year. Be advised that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for people in distress. The United States Department of Health & Human Services has also recently launched the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and Safe Call Now (1-206-459-3020) offers crisis counseling services specifically for first responders.

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

Three General Trends

At the risk of overgeneralizing the observations of the dozens of people who've been quoted in this space—as well as the opinion of this police scribe in particular—over the past year, the news has largely tended to fall into three main categories: budgets/inflation, de-escalation training, and recruiting/retention.

The ongoing focus on these three topics is entirely unsurprising.

With inflation hitting a 40-year high, the price of everything from ammo to computers to gas has forced agencies to cut back on various elements of training curriculum and exercises—to a certain extent, the still-somewhat-unresolved supply chain fiasco has further complicated those matters.

But the most deleterious contributor to budget woes can be traced directly to the "defund" movement. Reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies has been—and threatens to remain—disastrous for training programs.

Meanwhile, de-escalation training has been the subject of discussion and debate for nearly a decade now, but seems to be continually increasing in frequency and intensifying in focus in the past year. Just last week the Unites States House of Representatives passed legislation "to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to provide for training on alternatives to use of force, de-escalation, and mental and behavioral health and suicidal crises" and "directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop scenario-based training curricula (or identify existing curricula)" that supports that endeavor.

Adding training in this area is certainly a laudable goal, but not if it comes at the expense—the opportunity cost—of training in other areas of policing. Time is a zero-sum equation—if you're doing one thing you're necessarily not doing something else.

With all that being said, easily the most difficult challenge—for law enforcement in general and police training in particular—this year was keeping officers from leaving policing for alternative careers and in recruiting new officers into the ranks.

It's been well documented that the problem of keeping good officers and recruiting good candidates began when anti-police rhetoric, anti-police politicians, and anti-police protesters commenced a crusade to dismantle and/or demolish American law enforcement.

The false "hands-up-don't-shoot" narrative following the deadly confrontation on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, MO, and the "defund-the-police" movement following the in-custody death at intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis were the sparks that ignited the fire—both figuratively and literally—intended to burn down the policing profession.

The national mainstream media, radical special interest groups, and power-hungry elected leaders pressed the defunding/de-policing agenda to the point that a significant number of officers who could have—and otherwise would have—stayed on the job for years beyond their retirement date left as soon as the countdown clock hit zero. Others who were much younger and many years from retirement simply left the profession altogether.

Replacing those who have left is difficult and costly. The spread of anti-police sentiment has also informed a whole generation of young people that "policing stinks" and should be shunned as a career choice. Many young people look at the fact that a police officer can be jailed or sued in civil court for simply performing their job within the law and agency policy and are staying away in large numbers. Once they do get into an academy, the market essentially demands salaries which for some agencies is either unrealistic or unsustainable or both.

Unfortunately, hopes of a "red wave" of pro-police candidates winning elected office last month went almost completely dashed on the rocks. With only a few notable exceptions, races were generally close and at times even favored the party that launched the "defund" and "de-policing" movements.

As was stated here in the immediate aftermath of the mid-term elections, any remaining hope for a reasonable, rational, approach to improving policing in America, most likely lies in the hands of elected officials at the local level and the police leaders who serve their communities. They have the potential to shift the discussion and bring back to light the nobility and worthiness of the policing profession.

Looking Ahead

In just over a week, we'll ring in a New Year. Optimists will gaze upon a calendar unsullied by the detritus of previously marked-off days and grin at the potential for greatness. Pessimists will bemoan forecasts of imminent dark days ahead.

Both groups will be correct—at least to some extent—in their assessments. The law enforcement profession is certain to do truly amazing and wonderful things in the coming year. It is also assuredly going to be—at times, at least—downtrodden and dismayed at the ongoing avalanche of anti-police rhetoric and the onslaught of physical assaults and ambush attacks on officers.

Whatever may come in the next twelve months, this author wishes everyone who pins on a badge and straps on a duty belt every day health and happiness and safety and success in 2023.

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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