NYPD had a week filled with both sorrow and promise.  They said goodbye to Officer Peter Figoski, a true hero cop with over 200 career arrests.  Figoski was the patrol officer who first apprehended the infamous Zodiac killer.

During Figoski’s funeral this week, thousands of police officers from NYPD, many neighboring New York police agencies as well as brother and sister officers from New Jersey and Connecticut paid their respects to this gallant officer.  As of this morning, NYPD has raised $1.2 million for the memorial fund for Officer Figoski’s four daughters.  The Law Enforcement Family closed ranks and gathered in support as it always does in times of crisis.

Following this emotional tribute, NYPD swore in 1,500 new officers at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan a few days later.  Police Commissioner Ray Kelly advised the newest group of New York’s finest that there was no higher way to serve the City of New York.  These men and women represent the future, carrying on the legacy of Officer Figoski and those others who have gone on before them.

Figoski came on the job at a time when crack defined life in the Brooklyn neighborhoods he patrolled.  He enforced the law during the most exponential rise in crime New York ever experienced.  NYPD’s newest officers face a future with less crime of the sort Figoski faced, but far more serious circumstances.  NYPD faces terror threats every day, more so than any other U.S. police department.

NYPD’s newest also face a nationwide increase in line-of-duty deaths of 60% in the last two years.  At a time when NYPD reports the lowest number of officer-involved shootings ever, police officers nationwide are experiencing an extremely troubling increase in line-of-duty deaths.

What are the reasons for this increase?

  1. Monies for law enforcement from federal, state, and municipal funding streams has been decreasing.  Camden, NJ, one of the most dangerous cities in the country recently terminated half of its police force.  Nothing good can come of this.
  2. Reduced funding leads to cuts in officers hired, fewer officers on the street, less equipment purchased and maintained, and gaps in training.
  3. Fewer officers available may be linked to more officer fatigue due to overtime and long shifts.
  4. Reduced funding for mental health care leaves desperate people untreated, leading to violence against law enforcement.
  5. The economic downturn puts pressure on already fragile people who, again, act out against police officers.

How does the law enforcement community help new officers cope with increasing danger on the job?   The community must gather around new officers in the same way we honor the fallen and support their loved ones.  All who have the gravitas gained through experience must pass knowledge down to law enforcement’s future.  Current levels of line-of-duty deaths are unacceptable.  Through training, education, and public advocacy, we must work to create a safer policing environment for law enforcement’s future.

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