Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is trying to detect a pattern in the killings of five Philadelphia officers since he took over last year – the highest line-of-duty casualty rate of any force in the nation, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Is there some kind of radicalization going on?” Ramsey asked as his department prepared for Friday’s burial of the latest victim, Officer John Pawlowski. “That could be a part of it. Is it just a violent subculture that we have here that’s deeply ingrained?”
The question gnaws at Ramsey, who said the department also was looking at the circumstances surrounding several recent fatal shootings of civilians who police said had drawn weapons on officers. “You have to question whether or not things in the system work the way they’re supposed to work,” he said. “And I would argue very strongly that they don’t.” Three of the five officers killed since last year were singled out and shot. The alleged killers had extensive criminal records. The two other officers were killed in car crashes, struck by fleeing felons. Philadelphia is running counter to national trends. Nationwide, 140 officers were killed in the line of duty last year, the lowest number in five decades, says the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Police killings have declined steadily since the 1970s because of improvements in equipment, training, and trauma care.