Ambush attacks against law enforcement officers remain a threat to officer safety, with the number of attacks per year holding steady at about 200 a year since a decline in the early 1990s, says a new Department of Justice study reported by the Washington Post. The study by the Office of Community Policing Services (COPS) examined the ambushes – or planned surprise attacks — of law enforcement officers between 1990 to 2013 and concluded that concerns about targeted violence against police were on the rise and that “officers must not only be guardians of the public but also be prepared to respond to violence targeting them.” Although the number of ambush attacks on police per years is steady, the report says that the proportion of fatal attacks on officers attributable to ambushes is increasing.
The report found that areas where crime is high and assaults against police are high “may be more prone to severe attacks such as ambushes.” Progressive hiring practices and standards were associated with a lower number of ambushes. Technology, especially in-car cameras, significantly lowers ambush assaults and is a potential deterrent on both officer and citizen, the report found. The report also found a small and “confounding” correlation between police ambushes and community oriented policing. “We found that community policing…had the opposite effect than what we had expected,” the report said. “It is not within the realm of any plausible theory that community-oriented policing is a contributing factor to violence against the police.” The report recommended that data collection methods be improved and standardized to provide a better understanding of the national trends in ambushes of law enforcement officers.