“You used to just see a guy turn around and flee before they’d ever take a shot at a cop,” Lt. Mike Wallace of the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Now there’s no hesitation. They don’t think twice before shooting at the police. The shootings of four Broward County sheriff’s deputies in the past 12 months – resulting in deaths of three of the officers – mirrors the national trend. More shootings occur in Southern states where police tend to patrol alone. Consistently over the past decade, about 60 percent of all police officers assaulted in the U.S. were assigned to single-officer patrol vehicles.
Among factors in the shootings: the growing numbers of light, cheap assault weapons, overcrowded prisons that harden juveniles and adults, cutbacks in police budgets and anti-crime programs, and the rise of street gangs. A new generation of criminals are more combative in facing police. They may wear body armor themselves and shoot at the head of an officer wearing a bulletproof vest. “The death penalty is no longer a deterrent to these guys for shooting a police officer,” said Scott Knight, Chaska, Mn., police chief and a consultant for the International Chiefs of Police. “It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it, and I have 31 years of experience.” Others cite mandatory sentencing, combined with tough police responses to crime-ridden areas. “You have a lot of inmates, people who were incarcerated during the war on drugs in the ’80s and ’90s, being returned to the streets without jobs and without prospects,” said Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin. “Some of them are going right back to drugs, drug gangs, trafficking. They’ve done hard time and they don’t really care.”