140 police officers in the United States died in the line of duty in 2008, a 14% decrease from 2007 when 181 officers died, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The 181 deaths in 2007 temporarily reversed a downward trend that had begun in 1980 when a record 205 officers died in the line of duty. Law enforcement officials attribute the decrease to better training, bulletproof vests and the use of tasers. But better training and equipment has not prevented a 20% jump in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during the first six months of 2009.

Officers are killed in a variety of ways including gunfire, bombs, electrocution, stabbing and accidents. About half die as a result of vehicular assaults and traffic related incidents. 41 officers were killed by gunfire 2008. That was a 40% drop from 2007, and marked the lowest level in more than 50 years.

82 police officers have died or been killed in the line of duty this year, including 34 by gunfire. North St. Paul, Minnesota police officer Richard Crittenden was added to list on Monday, September 7th. He was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Crittenden was the first North St. Paul police officer killed in the line of duty.

The shooter, Devon Dockery, a 34 year-old convicted felon, had a long history of run-ins with the police and was under a restraining order when the shooting occurred at his wife’s apartment. Dockery was also killed and a second officer wounded in the confrontation.

Domestic violence during the last 20 years has been a rapidly growing health concern. More than 2.5 million females experience some form of violence each year. Almost two of every three of these females are attacked by a relative or person known to them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a national survey that 34% of adults in the United States had witnessed a man beating his wife or girlfriend, and that 14% of women report that they have experienced violence from a husband or boyfriend. More than 1 million women seek medical assistance each year for injuries caused by battering.

Surprisingly, most studies also show that while men inflict the greater portion of injuries in domestic assaults, women are at least as likely as men to shove, punch, slap or otherwise physically assault their partner, and that such relatively minor assaults often escalate to more serious assaults. A report that examined 219 studies on intimate partner violence concluded that, "women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.”

While there appears to be plenty of blame to go around, the sad fact is that domestic assaults extract a heavy toll not only on the victims, but also on police officers that have to deal with it on a daily basis. According to North St. Paul Police Chief Tom Lauth, police officers respond to so many domestic disturbances, they sometimes are nonchalance in their approach. Monday’s shooting is a wake-up call to all police officers that they never should take domestic disturbance calls for granted.

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Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on September 11, 2009 at 1:55pm
It's always a few bad apples, isn't it? Too bad indeed. Minneapolis has a gang problem and the scandal doesn't help things. I hope your source isn't one of them. I got to know a ton of cops while reporting on crime. Their insights are invaluable.
Comment by Christopher Valen on September 11, 2009 at 1:49am
Ben,
It's too bad that a few cops ruined the reputation of the Metro Gang Task Force. They were very effective. One of the officers who worked on the task force was a great resource on Hmong gangs and gave me lots of information while I was writing my latest book, "The Black Minute". None of the officers under investigation have been named, but I don't believe he's one of them.
Comment by Christopher Valen on September 11, 2009 at 1:44am
Dana,
I've ridden with cops in the past and on one occasion the St. Paul officer I was with received a call-out for a domestic. Fortunately, a number of squads responded and the man who had assaulted his wife was handcuffed and safely taken away. Afterward, we talked about domestics and this officer, who happened to be a female, said she thought they were the "worst" because of the possibility of escalation. I read this morning that Officer Crittenden was shot in the head with his own weapon. The perp got the gun out of Crittenden's holster during a struggle. The woman officer who also responded to the call killed the perp although she was wounded. It was a small space in the apartment and yet 14 shots were exchanged. It's not like in the movies where no one ever misses.
Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on September 10, 2009 at 1:57pm
I heard about that shooting. It's tragic anyone had to die, especially over a domestic. St. Paul is generally considered the nicer twin of the Cities.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the gang strike force is busy at work building their retirements under the table. If it isn't the bad cops misusing Joe Taxpayer's dollars, it's the street beats getting shot up on domestic calls. Just great.
Comment by Dana King on September 10, 2009 at 11:32am
The three Pittsburgh officers killed this summer were answering what started out as a domestic disturbance. My daughter has an aunt and uncle who are Baltimore patrol officers. They hate domestics with a passion.

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