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.