Job stress can induce a bad mood. In severe and extended form, it can even be hazardous to your health. But for America’s police officers, the perils of work have become increasingly lethal.
A new FBI report shows that law-enforcement deaths in the line of duty rose by 25 percent from 2010 to 2011, and were up 75 percent since 2008.
More police in our nation were killed by criminal suspects than in auto accidents last year — the first time that’s happened since such records were kept.
And the overall 2011 U.S. police death toll of 72 was the highest in nearly two decades if you exclude the extraordinary-circumstance losses of life during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Experts offer competing theories for this persisting climb in officer fatalities even as the overall violent crime rate has dropped. Some blame criminals’ easy access to guns. Some blame budget cuts that have reduced police ranks and emboldened criminals.
But police departments across the nation, including those in our community and state, are rightly stressing the importance of thorough training that aims to minimize dangers to officers in the field.
Michelle S. Klimt, who oversees FBI training of police from across the country at its Criminal Justice Information Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., told The New York Times last week: “Every stop can be potentially fatal, so we are trying to make sure the officers are ready and prepared every single day they go out.”
She added that officers are in constant jeopardy of being “encountered with deadly force by someone trying to kill you.”
The menace is particularly acute during traffic stops and domestic-violence calls. The former hazard was re-confirmed late last year and early this year by the loss of two Aiken officers in the line of duty.
Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson, 33, suffered a fatal gunshot wound during a traffic stop on Dec. 20. Less than six weeks later, Aiken Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, 48, was shot to death during a traffic stop, making her the first female police officer killed in the line of duty in our state’s history.
So if you get pulled, don’t blame the officer if he — or she — seems a little tense.
And the next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself over job pressure, ponder the rising risks taken every day by those who protect and serve us on the thin blue line.