The shooting of four police officers, one of them fatally, near Miami last week added to a tough year for America’s 800,000 police officers, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Coming only a few days after a shootout in Odessa, Tx., that killed three officers, the incidents became part of a troubling phenomenon for 2007: a spike in the number of police officers who died in the line of duty to a level not seen since 1978. Of the 132 officers to die so far this year, 54 were shot. Shooting rose 59 percent increase over the same period in 2006, says the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington. “The figures this year are nothing short of alarming,” says fund chairman Craig Floyd.
Police offer several possible explanations for the high losses, including a general rise in violent crime. Some experts suggest that community empathy for police, which rose after 9/11, may be waning now, especially in places where tensions exist between poor minority residents and police forces, or where transiency is relatively high, as in Miami or New Orleans. Back in 1973, when there were about 210 officers for every 100,000 Americans, 134 police were feloniously killed. In 2005, the last year for which there are totals, 55 police officers were feloniously killed and there were about 250 police officers for every 100,000 residents. On the other side of the coin, the Justice Department counts an average of 350 “felons justifiably killed by police” in recent years, down from a peak of about 400 in 1994.