Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Officer Deaths Decrease During First Half of 2008

In October of 2007 I blogged about the 54% increase in officer deaths in 2007. I am happy to report that those numbers have decreased dramatically. So much so that the number of deaths have not been so low since 1965 when 55 officers were killed. In the first six months of 2007, 100 officers died in the line of duty as compared to 2008 where in the first six months 59 officers have died in the line of duty. These numbers include all officer on duty deaths including shootings, traffic fatalities and other line of duty deaths.

Preliminary 2008 Law Enforcement Officer Fatality Statistics as of July 22 according to
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

2008 2007 %Change
Total Fatalities64110-42%
Traffic Incidents3250-36%
Other Causes717-59%

2008 Fatalities - Top 10 States

Texas7 Ohio3
California5 Oklahoma3
Florida4 Several2

Federal Agencies

The last two New Mexico Officers who's names were added to the National Memorial in May of 2008 were: CHRISTOPHER M MIRABAL Patrolman from the New Mexico State Police, and GERMAINE FERRIS CASEY Police Officer from Rio Rancho P.D.. There are now 130 names of Officers from New Mexico listed on the National Memorial in Washington. I have blogged before about the need for officers to pay attention to this statistics if only as a reminder not to become one of the numbers. While Traffic Accidents have been the top killer of officers for a number of years, shooting deaths are not far behind. In the first half of 2008 50 officers have died in traffic accidents and 43 have been shot to death.

Preventing these deaths means a combination of defensive driving and defensive tactics by officers when on the streets. Citizens often do not understand why certain tactics are used when performing tasks which may seem mundane. Simple traffic stops may seem like everyday activities to many citizens, however to an officer it is one of the most dangerous tasks we perform. Officers constantly change and revise how these stops are performed in order to keep one step ahead of the criminals. On the other hand just like when going through security check points at an airport all citizens are subjected to additional scrutiny in order to deal with the few who would do harm.

Officers also need to pay extra attention when going from call to call. Officers spend 10 hours a day, 40 hours a week, not counting over time, driving from one end of the county or city to the other responding to calls for service. Even when it is not a full blown emergency when someone calls the police they expect a quick response. Many times officers end up in too much of a hurry trying to serve the public. I often remind the deputies in the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office that it does not serve the public or your fellow deputies if you never get to the call. Even a minor traffic accident can not only tie up the officer involved for hours it will also tie up other officers and commanders as well. On the other hand when you average out the number of hours officers spend behind the wheel the actual number of accidents officers are in are way below the national average for drivers.

Many of us in law enforcement management are concerned about the economy and its downturn. We are very concerned about the effect it will have on crime across the nation. In bad economic times there are often increases in crime across the board including thefts, robbery's, and homicides which are the result of another crime in progress. Officer deaths could increase during national increases in crime rates as well. I am hoping for the best but at the same time we always prepare for the worst.

1 comment:

NLEOMF said...

Sheriff, What a thoughtful -- and thought-provoking -- analysis. As a staffer with the NLEOMF, I am very pleased that you have used our data to help remind people -- officers and citizens alike -- of the dangers officers face, especially on our roadways. The very reason we publish our fatality trend reports is to generate the type of discussion you have put forth here. As the encouraging numbers from 2008 indicate, awareness can be the first step toward increased safety and lives saved. Thanks for your dedication and commitment to officers safety. -- Kevin Morison, Director of Communications, NLEOMF