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Big spike in police killings in 2011, then a drop in 2012

November 19, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • FBI headquarters in Washington. A new FBI report showed a spike in killings of police officers in 2011.
FBI headquarters in Washington. A new FBI report showed a spike in killings…

Criminals killed more police officers in 2011 than in any year since 1995, according to data released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But the spike appears to have disappeared as fast as it arrived. According to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, violence against cops has plunged more than 20% in 2012 compared to this time last year.

Seventy-two law enforcement officers were killed in 2011, according to the FBI's annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, with all but nine dying of gunshot wounds.

That's a jump from 56 officers killed in 2010, 48 in 2009, 41 in 2008, and 58 in 2007. The jump also runs against the grain of an overall 4% drop in violent crimes all across the U.S. as the country continues a long plunge in crime.

Those killed include San Diego's Jeremy Henwood, who was shot and killed at a stop sign in what police at the time called an "absolutely unprovoked" attack.

"Of the 72 officers feloniously killed, 23 were killed in arrest situations, 15 were ambushed, 11 were involved in performing traffic pursuits/stops, nine were involved in tactical situations, and seven were answering disturbance calls," the FBI said in a release. "Five of the slain officers were investigating suspicious persons/circumstances; one was conducting an investigative activity, such as surveillance, searches, or interviews; and one officer was killed while transporting or maintaining the custody of prisoners."

Steve Groeninger, spokesman for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which acts as a nongovernmental clearinghouse for data on fallen officers, told the Los Angeles Times, "What we kept hearing over and over, it was criminals that had little to lose, so they were inclined to take their chances and shoot their way out of the situation."

Groeninger said the number of officers killed by gunfire was at its highest since the 1970s, when there were about three times as many violent crimes happening per year in the U.S.

"For the first time in 14 years, firearms surpassed traffic fatalities," said Groeninger, who said his organization takes no stance on gun control. "The great news is so far the numbers in 2012 are down significantly. We’re down 20% overall [in officer fatalities] and firearms are down 35%."

Outside of criminal attacks, another 53 officers died in accidents in 2011 -- a drop from 72 in 2010 -- with 54,774 officers assaulted on duty, according to the FBI. 

As of Monday, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's numbers said 112 officers overall had died in the line of duty thus far in 2012, compared to 142 deaths this time last year.

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