Being a police officer is a challenging job. After all, there are people who want you dead simply because of the outfit you put on before going to work. Further, you’re actually required to do things that are going to anger some folks. Both of those situations ramps up the risk of officers being murdered pretty darn high.
However, 2017 is shaping up to have the fewest officers killed in the line of duty in half a century.
The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty dropped sharply in 2017, marking the second-lowest toll in more than 50 years.
As of Thursday, 128 officers have died in the line of duty this year, with 44 shot and killed. That’s down 10% from 2016, when 143 officers died, with 66 gunned down, according to data released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit aimed at honoring officers and improving safety.
The only other year with fewer deaths in the past five decades was 2013, when 116 officers were killed.
“This is one of those good-news, bad-news situations,” said Craig Floyd, president and chief executive of the fund. “On one hand, you had 128 officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, showing the cost of public safety, but for the first time since 2013, the number of deaths has actually declined.”
Mr. Floyd is correct, it really is. For most of us, this is still fairly good news. For the families and friends of those 128 officers, however…
Several things are credited as being potentially responsible for the low number. Among them are better body armor, better community relations, better training, and just less violence in American communities.
Or, it could all be an outlier and mean nothing.
Yeah, that’s something to rock yourself to sleep at night with, isn’t it?
“It’s definitely a good sign but if it’s a trend, we’ll have to see,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina and a researcher on high-risk police activities. “We’re starting to see the impact of all this new training and equipment, and a shift because of the overall concern for officer safety.”
While shootings played a big role, traffic accidents caused the largest number of deaths. Crashes killed 47 officers this year, down 15% from 2016. A number of factors — including enhanced policies that limit vehicle pursuits and speeding and the “move-over law,” which requires drivers to slow down and switch lanes when an officer is pulled over — could be behind the drop, experts say.
That said, we can hope. After all, while police officers come in all shapes, sizes, and decency, most of us would rather see the good ones nice and safe and the bad ones become unemployed and/or arrested. Death really isn’t good for anyone here.
Maybe I’m just biased. After all, I first had to learn about death when one of my father’s fellow officers was killed in the line of duty. I don’t like hearing about dead officers.
But I don’t think I’m alone on that, and hearing that there are a lot few of them is a big win for everyone.