It has been a bloody new year for U.S. law enforcement. In the past several days, police and U.S. marshals have been shot in the line of duty in St. Petersburg and Miami, Fla.; Detroit; Indianapolis; and Lincoln City, Ore.; in addition to Sunday's shooting in Port Orchard, Kitsap County.
WASHINGTON — It has been a bloody new year for U.S. law enforcement. In the past several days, police and U.S. marshals have been shot in the line of duty in St. Petersburg and Miami, Fla.; Detroit; Indianapolis; and Lincoln City, Ore.; in addition to Sunday’s shooting in Port Orchard, Kitsap County.
With the recent spate of shootings targeting law enforcement — eight on Sunday alone — “it’s been a tough new year after a tough 2010,”said Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The nonprofit organization, in Washington, D.C., tracks fatalities.
So far this year, 10 officers have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty, up from six over the same period last year, the memorial fund reported. All told in 2010, 61 local, state and federal officers were killed by gunfire.
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That was a nearly 25 percent increase over 2009, when there were 49 firearm fatalities, the memorial fund said in a recent research bulletin. That year, firearms were the leading cause of death in the line of duty among 116 law-enforcement fatalities overall — the lowest overall fatality rate in 50 years.
More ominously, the bulletin noted that “multiple fatalities” accounted for nearly all shootings in 2010. It cited five incidents that led to 10 officers’ deaths — in Fresno, Calif.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; West Memphis, Ark.; Tampa, Fla.; and Hoonah, Alaska.
Cluster shootings have been a hallmark of most of the incidents:
• In St. Petersburg Monday morning, Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed and a U.S. marshal’s deputy was wounded while trying to serve the suspect a felony arrest warrant, according to news reports. The deputy was reported in stable condition, according to TV station WFTS in Tampa.
• In Miami on Thursday, Miami-Dade police Officers Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo were shot and killed while trying to arrest a fugitive wanted for murder, The Miami Herald reported. Another officer fatally wounded the fugitive gunman, Johnny Simms, 22.
• In Detroit, a gunman walked into a Northwest District police station Sunday afternoon during roll call and opened fire with a shotgun. Four officers were wounded before police killed the gunman, 38-year-old Lamar Moore. Police Chief Ralph Godbee announced at a news conference Monday that the officers all were expected to recover, TV station WXYZ reported.
• In Indianapolis, police Officer David Moore was shot Sunday morning during a traffic stop. He’s in a hospital intensive-care unit with two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the hip, The Indianapolis Star reported Monday, noting a suspect, Thomas Hardy, is under arrest.
• In Port Orchard, also on Sunday, two Kitsap County sheriff’s deputies were wounded after confronting a suspicious person in a Walmart parking lot. They and a third deputy returned fire, killing the suspect, Anthony A. Martinez, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. The deputies were shot in their torsos, and one went home Monday while the other, in satisfactory condition, could be released from the hospital as soon as Tuesday.
• In Lincoln City, Ore., police Officer Steven B. Dodds was in critical condition after being shot several times during a traffic stop at 11 p.m. Sunday, Portland’s South County Spotlight reported on its website. Police are looking for the man whose car was stopped “to confirm he is safe.”
“It continues a very sad trend from last year,”said Gene Boegtlin, spokesman for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Va. The recent incidents are all under investigation, he said, and motives are not all clear.
“There’s a more brazen criminal, and there seem to be more people interested in killing a cop just to say they killed a cop,” said Groeninger, of the memorial fund.
Rates of violent crime have been falling in the past decade, as have police deaths.
“There’s no particular overall increase in the risk of police officers compared with where we were decades ago,”said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.
Though he acknowledged that law enforcement remains among the most dangerous professions, Fox said, “when it comes down to it, the reason why criminals shoot police officers is to avoid capture.”
Boegtlin said the police-chief association’s leadership has encouraged members to “take the most effective measures they can, whether wearing body armor or other protective equipment.”
But budget problems may leave law enforcement vulnerable, Groeninger said.
“One of the things we fear is that budget cuts are leading to fewer officers on shifts, officers working longer shifts” and reduced training budgets. “All these things add up, and they can’t have a positive effect,”he said.
Traffic-related incidents are the leading cause of officers’ deaths, responsible for 73 last year and 51 in 2009, the memorial fund reported.
The memorial fund compiles state-by-state data on law enforcement fatalities and causes. (See www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/.)
The memorial fund does not track injuries.