Today’s Investigative Special Report – October 19, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “Are There More Physical Assaults and Deaths of Police Officers by Perpetrators”

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (Photo credit: afagen)

By Lawrence W. Daly
Forensic Expert Senior Author
Every day law enforcement officers put their lives on the line and during their daily tour may be presented with situations which surround violent perpetrators who have little to no respect or regards for the officer and his safety. This places the officer in a precarious situation as if there is no fear or sense of a threat by the perpetrator for the officer, than it is more than likely there will be a physical altercation.
The officer safety tools which have become a part of today’s officer equipment e.g. Tasers, specialized batons, and etc. are of great assistance when attempting to affect an arrest of the aggressor. The level of force an officer can utilize in any given physical confrontation depends upon the perpetrator’s physical presentation.
Most law enforcement agencies have what they call a pyramid of force. The pyramid provides a guide for the officer in how he should respond under specific situations of potential violence or violence. The pyramid is generally based on what the use of force is under the State statues.
In researching the level of injuries law enforcement officers have endured, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (LEOMF) states that the averages over the last decade:
1.      164 deaths per year
2.      58,509 assaults per year
3.      15,833 injuries per year
There are more than a million sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States. In the gender category the male population is 88 percent, where the female population is 12 percent. Historically, since 1791, there have been over 19,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Currently, there are 19,660 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, this according to LEOMF (2012).
The National Institute of Justice (2012) provides a break-down of the types of injuries and deaths in which law enforcement officers are a part of. They are:
Reason for fatalities:
SC Law Enforcement Officers memorial
SC Law Enforcement Officers memorial (Photo credit: Akhenaton06)
1.      45 percent of the line-of-duty fatality cases are caused by assault or violence
2.      31.5 percent are attributed to vehicle accidents.
3.      4 percent to aircraft accidents
4.      9 percent to being struck by a vehicle
5.      2 percent to a fall or jumping
6.      7 percent to physical stress and overexertion
7.      2.5 percent to other causes

Reason for injuries:

1.      27 percent of the line-of-duty injury cases are caused by assault or violence.
2.      16.5 percent are attributed to vehicle accidents
3.      0.5 percent to being struck by a vehicle
4.      19 percent to a fall or jumping
5.      24.5 percent to physical stress and overexertion
6.      2 percent to fire and hazardous substances exposure
7.      9.5 percent to being struck by or contact with an object
8.      2.4 percent to other causes

It is apparent that in combining the statistics of reasons for fatalities and injuries is 72 percent of law enforcement officers are victims to assaults or violence. This is significant as this should provide law enforcement agencies with the need for training and education dealing with assaults and violence.
The training and education that law enforcement officers receive in the area of domestic violence or potential violent has increased over the years, beginning at the police academy, field training programs, and advanced training workshops. Generally, officers deal with domestic violence or potential violence situations on their daily tour. Therefore, the experience they receive on the job is extensive. This provides the officer with the ability to quickly surmise what is occurring in a call for assistance to a possible domestic violence or possible violent situation.
One of the problems which occur when the officer deals with these types of situations is they become so routine, the officer may reduce the intensity of their response in how they will approach the situation. The officer must never ‘let his guard’ down in any domestic violence or potential violent situations. The statistics speak for themselves and the officer must accept responsibility and accountability for their reaction to these situations.
State laws have been created to deal with how a law enforcement officer will handle a domestic violence complaint. In the State of Washington law enforcement officers handling a domestic violence complaint are mandated to arrest the aggressor. If the officer can’t determine who was the aggressor the officer ‘must’ arrest one or both. The officer must conduct a complete and thorough investigation when at the alleged crime scene, usually in a short period of time.
English: National Law Enforcement Officers Mem...
English: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Candlelight Vigil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Generally, there are children involved when the officer’s respond to a domestic violence situation. The officer must determine if not arresting one or both of the combatants would be a safety issue for the children. Children should never be left unprotected by individuals who have been a combatant in a domestic violence situation.
There are multiple resources for battered men and women who are victims of domestic violence. It is shocking and confusing to the community when a woman is arrested in a domestic violence situation. Unfortunately, this happens more often than the community is made aware.
The above statistics doesn’t address if alcohol and drugs were involved in the officer being injured or killed while responding to the domestic violence or potential violent situation. What is important is to understand that the aggressor in a violent situation may be suffering from a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional situations which has caused them to act out.
Some researchers have documented that some of the attributing aspects of the domestic violence is due to a chemical imbalance, personality disorder, alcohol and drug use, post-traumatic stress disorders, poor impulse control, intermittent explosive disorder, and poor anger management. These attributes never excuse another person injuring or killing another human beings.
Sometimes the aggressor will turn his aggressiveness towards the law enforcement officer. It is important the officer takes every precaution to protect himself from becoming a victim.  It is unfortunate when an officer attempts to deal with domestic violence or potential violent situation without assistance of another officer(s). Approaching a potential combative situation should always be approached by two officers or more.
When you examine the amount of injuries and deaths which law enforcement officers are exposed to, there needs to be continual education and training for law enforcement officials so there may be a new method and technique which may reduce the aggressor from becoming violent towards the officer.
The State laws which have assisted law enforcement officers in apprehending and making violent perpetrators responsible for their actions has reduced some of the officers from becoming a victim. Violence is a part of society’s reactions to situations and it is necessary and reasonable that law enforcement continue finding new tools to minimize officers from being injured or killed. 

                       Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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