Experts Cautious About Finding Trend in Officer Killing, Assault Data


Two high-profile shootings of police officers in small towns are highlighting a sharp spike in police officer deaths nationwide during the past two years. Experts caution the Christian Science Monitor against the conclusion that criminals are ramping up a new “war on cops,” instead suggesting that the statistics merely show an end to a 40-year decline in officer fatalities. Killed Thursday in Greenland, N.H., was Chief Michael Maloney, one week short of retirement; four other officers were shot. Also on Thursday in Modesto, Ca., a civilian and a sheriff’s deputy were shot and killed by a homeowner who opened fire to avoid being evicted. Last year, 72 officers were killed in the line of duty, up from 41 in 2008. But the 2011 number is similar to 2001, when 70 officers were killed. In 1973, 143 officer deaths were reported.

“Newton's law of criminology states that what goes down must eventually go up,” says criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. “After that long a decline, it's not surprising at all that the number has finally jumped.” The number of assaults against police officers has reached more than 50,000 per year, “and we think that is underreported. The FBI thinks that's only half the number,” says John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The IACP runs the Center for Prevention of Violence Against Police, funded by the U.S. Justice Department. “We are taking an aggressive position against this kind of backlash against police in which a bad guy thinks he can just start shooting,” he says. “We are out to change the police practices and protocols to deal with it.”

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