In the United States, firearm related line-of-duty officer killings have risen a staggering 40% in the past two years, with overall officer deaths up over 50%. Not only are more officers being murdered, more and more are being targeted, ambushed, and slain in numbers. There are many personal stories going untold beneath these percentages, and these fallen heroes deserve a voice, as do their families, loved ones and partners who are struggling to pick up the pieces these tragedies have left behind.
Cities and counties all across the country are experiencing unprecedented budget shortfalls, resulting in mass public safety layoffs and operational cuts. As a result, those left with jobs are being asked to do much more with much less.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, cited by the Department of Justice in a Community Oriented Policing Services report in October, 85 percent of agencies reported they were forced to reduce budgets over the last year.
The Fraternal Order of Police estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 sworn officer positions were lost because of budget reductions, as cited by the Department of Justice.
The shooting death of a New York police officer early Monday morning marks the 166th death nationwide in the past 11 months, up from last year's 146.
Veteran police officer Peter Figoski, 47, died after he was shot in the face when he interrupted a robbery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.
This most recent killing comes just days after the murder of Virginia Tech University police officer Deriek W. Crouse. That death shook a campus still reeling from a 2007 shooting rampage that killed 32 people.
Since last week's shooting at Virginia Tech, three other police officers have been shot and killed, including Figoski. "For the first time in 14 years, firearms-related deaths will outnumber traffic and 'other'-related deaths.
"Police departments nationwide are being asked to do more with less," said Steve Groeninger, senior communications director of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
A Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics report indicated there were an average 250 officers per 100,000 people nationwide in 2008. In 2011, the DOJ Community Oriented Policing Services division reports a drop in the police to population ratio, to an average of 181 to 100,000.
Groeninger said the increased death toll can be attributed to budget cuts and what he referred to as a criminal's affinity for violence by gun. There is a tendency of previously incarcerated individuals to go desperately rogue when approached by the officials of law, and "shoot their way out of a situation," he said.
"We're seeing more of that in recent years," he said.
In January 2011, CNN reported four law enforcement shooting deaths in Florida stemming from two instances when officers tried to take in wanted criminals.
Floyd said he believes the numbers are a testament to the times. "I think that we have a strong anti-government sentiment in our country, similar to the 1970s, the deadliest decade in law enforcement."
The decade that witnessed the end of the Vietnam War, multiple energy crises, a weakening economy and the impeachment of a president also saw the loss of 2,286 law enforcement officers. That is an average of almost 229 officer fatalities per year.
"In the '70s we saw a lot of protests and disrespect for law enforcement officials, and we're seeing the same thing today," he said.
Over the next year, a production crew completely comprised of public safety professionals will be traveling to numerous police agencies across the country, large and small, urban and rural, candidly interviewing command staff, line officers, city officials and the public in areas that have lost officers and/or experienced crippling cuts in patrol staffing. Along the way, we will share their intimate accounts of heroism and loss, and explore the complexities and challenges of funding public safety in today's economy. Through their eyes we will tell this story. Their story. Our story. And, hopefully, answer some questions along the way. (Above excerpt is directly from the project’s website - http://fallenproject.com/Home_Page.html
Not only will this film serve as a snapshot of history in an unprecedentedly challenging time for our country, and for law enforcement, but its raw honesty and intimately candid perspective will serve as a tribute to all those who have sacrificed everything so that we may enjoy the safety and freedoms we take for granted.
This documentary is an outstanding project! It will be a must see film. If you are not already pissed off about what is being done to public safety budgets and the resulting impact then you should be. Anger is not enough. You as an individual need to become involved. Personal politics aside this is an issue. The FOP is fully engaged and we need our members, neighbors, and friends equally engaged. http://www.savepublicsafety.com/
A fund has been established to raise funding for this ambitious feature documentary film that will explore the rapidly rising line-of-duty death rate being suffered by law enforcement in the US. The project is being funded completely by donations from officers, associations and the public. Donations can be made directly from the website, www.FallenProject.com - http://lawenforcementtoday.com/2011/12/10/fallen/