Assaults on Police Officers Increase Dramatically
I just wrote about the decrease in police officer deaths. Some commentators suggested that better medical care resulted in fewer deaths.
A former police spokesperson suggested that I take a look at the number of police officers assaulted. I did and there is a dramatic increase in the numbers from 2014 through 2016 that corresponds to harsh media coverage.
The attached chart (below) from the FBI indicates a peak of 61,257 officers assaulted in 2007 with steady decreases through 2014 with 48,988 assaulted.
The number increased to 50,991 in 2015 and then explode to 57,180 for 2016.
The percent of officers injured increased from 25.9 in 2007 to 28.9 in 2016 for an average of 27.3 percent.
The percent injured by a firearm increased from 8.1 percent in 2009 to 11.9 percent in 2016 with an average of 9.6 percent.
The percent of officers injured by a knife or cutting instrument went from a high of 15 percent in 2011 to 10.8 percent in 2016 with an average of 12.5 percent.
There is a new high for officers injured with a personal weapon (i.e., fists) in 2016 with 31.4 percent.
Note that the number of police agencies reporting (and the number of officers employed) increased in 2015 and 2016 which could influence the data.
554,658 police officers were assaulted from 2007 to 2016.
Is there An Explanation?
There has been considerable negative media coverage of animosity between law enforcement and some communities and an intense national debate regarding police use of force that corresponds with the increase in assaults.
Some cops throughout the country fervently believe that there is a cultural and physical war on policing and the increase in the numbers of officers assaulted and injured are indications that they could be correct. There are also numerous media reports of increasing assaults on correctional officers.
The decrease in deaths was hailed by some as proof that there was “no war on cops,” (The Marshall Project). The increase in assaults and injuries of officers may reignite the debate. Some police observers insist that better trauma care resulted in fewer deaths while others suggest that officers were facing increased violent attacks.
But as noted, there are more agencies and officers participating in the count, and the averages for 2016 are not dramatically higher than the cumulative norms for the entire measurement period.
But the negative publicity from the last three years is creating increasing problems for police officer retention and recruitment and causing many police officer families to strongly encourage their loved ones to get out of policing, and to get out now.
Noting that 57,180 officers were assaulted in 2016 and that close to 29 percent were injured provides fuel for that discussion.
Data from the FBI
Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.