2009 was a particularly perilous year for police officers involved in gun disputes, reports the Associated Press. The number killed in the line of duty by gunfire increased 24 percent from 2008, say preliminary statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. As of Saturday, 47 police officers had died nationwide after being shot while on duty, up from 38 for the same time in 2008, which was the lowest number of gunfire deaths since 1956.
Experts are surprised by the number of officers who have been targeted by gunmen. “There’s an increasingly desperate population out there,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Other than in rare cases for ideological reasons, we really haven’t seen people taking on the cops head-to-head. Something is amiss. It should be cause for grave concern.” Contributing to this year’s spike are cases in which several officers were shot and killed in groups: four officers last month near Seattle; four in Oakland in March; three officers in Pittsburgh in April; and two officers in Okaloosa County, Fl., in April.