law enforcement casualties rose dramatically in 2021.

Recently, the FBI issued its statistics for law enforcement officers assaulted and killed in the line of duty, which documented a staggering 51-percent increase in the number of police officers killed when compared to the same period last year. The report, commonly called the LEOKA, also documented that of the 60,105 officers who were assaulted in 2020, 18,568 (30.9%) sustained injuries. The increase in law enforcement assaults marks a troubling trend for policing.

Law Enforcement Assaults, Killings Spike in 2021

The events include violent assaults like in June, when a Centerville, Virginia police officer investigated a report of a man impersonating police officers. The suspect suddenly attacked and nearly killed the officer during the interview.

While the statistics are historic and staggering, they mirror the overall surge in violent crime in America. Or as the FBI put it, “for the first time in four years, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased when compared with the previous year’s statistics,” citing a 5.6-percent rise in violent crime. In 2020, the rate of violent crime totaled 387.8 offenses per 100,000 people compared to a rate of 380.8 offenses per 100,000 people in 2019.

The statistics fail to show the incidents leading to violent attacks. Statistically speaking, responding to domestic disturbances leads with the most dangerous incident an officer can respond to. 

FBI Incident Danger Percentages Down  

  •     Responding to disturbance calls such as family quarrels or bar fights (29.6%)
  •     Attempting other arrests (16.1%)
  •     Handling, transporting, or maintaining custody of prisoners (12.6%)
  •     Investigating suspicious persons or circumstances (8.8%)
  •     Traffic pursuits or stops (8.4%)
  •     Civil disorder, such as mass disobedience or riots (4.1%)
  •     Handling persons with mental illness (3.9%)
  •     Burglaries in progress or pursuing burglary suspects (1.3%)
  •     Ambush situations (0.8%)
  •     Robberies in progress or pursuing robbery suspects (0.8%)
  •     All other types of circumstances (13.6%)

Within those numbers, 54 law enforcement officers lost their lives to felonious attack during the first nine months of 2021. The figure represents a 45.9-percent increase compared to the 37 officers killed during the same period in 2020. Feloniously killed defines an “incident type in which an officer, while engaged in or because of the performance of their official duties, was fatally injured as a direct result of a willful and intentional act by an offender.” Translation: a suspect intentionally killed the officer.

Suspects used firearms (43), vehicles (6) and personal weapons to feloniously kill those 54 officers. For example, in August, a suspect shot a Chicago police officer in the back, killing him, during a traffic stop.

Unprovoked Attacks on the Rise

To make matters worse in 2021, unprovoked attacks of law enforcement officers have outpaced all other circumstances of felonious officer deaths.  An unprovoked attack is “an attack on an officer not prompted by official contact at the time of the incident between the officer and the offender,” meaning a targeted assault or attack against an officer for just being a law enforcement officer.

These unprovoked attacks, 40 of the 54, combined with pursuits, tactical situations, and ambushes, comprise 74.1 percent of the felonious deaths. In 2020, the same situations represented only 28.3 percent of law enforcement officer deaths.

Ambush attacks are defined as a “situation where an officer is assaulted, unexpectedly, as the result of premeditated design by the perpetrator.” Premeditated ambush attacks occur when “an unsuspecting officer was targeted or lured into danger as the result of conscious consideration and planning by the offender.”

Premeditated ambush attacks struck 100 law enforcement officers, in 81 separate ambush-style attacks, so far this year. The numbers represent a 153-percent increase over the same time frame in 2020.

These ambush attacks include the recent one in Texas. Harris County Deputies Atkins, Garrett and Barthen responded to a potential robbery, taking suspects into a custody. Suddenly another suspect appeared, shooting the officers.

Thugs Ambush Officers

One of the worst examples of the dangers and unprovoked violence came in the tragic murder of New Mexico State Trooper Darian Jarrott. A suspect, and drug dealer, ambushed the trooper during a traffic stop. He pulled a rifle and shot Jarrott, execution style.

This example and others speak to the underlying reasons of why law enforcement officers these days face such a deadly dynamic. It has become normalized to disregard and disrespect law enforcement officers. A criminally emboldening environment has taken hold across many corners of the nation via policies that support criminal behavior and not public safety. Bail reform in New York precipitated a dramatic rise in violent crime via the the repeated release of violent criminals. Meanwhile, Minneapolis’ Defund Police movement caused a massive violent crime wave. Finally, cities like San Francisco refuse to prosecute alleged “minor” crimes, sparking a historic rise in violent and property crimes rates. A wave of business closings followed.

Clearly the only thing these policy experiments over the past year or so have shown is an increased violent crime rate and a target placed on the backs of every American and law enforcement officer.

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