According to CNN, police officers consistently rank among America’s most dangerous jobs. On the aggregate, for every 100,000 police officers, 18 will die. The percentage of police deaths is increasing at an alarming rate. In the first few months of the current year, there have already been 20 officer fatalities. According to the CEO of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Craig Floyd, the reason for this increase is that "They're taking away training dollars, equipment dollars and manpower dollars. When you cut law enforcement budgets people, including officers, die."
The leading cause of police fatalities is attributed to traffic accidents. "We see a lot of crashes when officers are responding to emergency calls. Officers are different. They want to help and they put themselves at potential life-threatening peril to help others." Although accidents may be the leading cause of death, the Justice Department found that more and more police officers are becoming targets of ambush attacks. In 2011 alone, firearm related deaths of police officers increased by 23%. In an article published by USA Today, 73% of firearm related deaths were the result of ambush attacks.
The following is bone chilling news clip covering an ambush attack on four police officers.
The person responsible was a man named Maurice Clemmons. Clemmons was a convicted felon in both Arkansas and Washington. Angered by the legal problems he ran into in Pierce County, Washington, he devised a plan that was put into action that fateful day. After two days of eluding the police, he was finally found under circumstances that forced officers to open fire on him.
Police academies around the nation do a great job teaching officers how to defend themselves. Whether it is a form of martial arts, defensive stances, or weapons training, officers are always prepared for the worst. However, no one would have ever thought that sitting down for a cup of coffee would eventually result in the deaths of four police officers.
After thinking about this incident, I began to think. How are police officers mentally trained to accept the fact that they may one day die in the line of duty? Unfortunately, I could not find anything on this topic. Since no information was readily available, I contacted Sargent Wikoff with the Bloomington Police Department. He told me that mental/emotional damage was a topic rarely discussed in the past. However, academies and departments are starting to emphasize this topic more and more. For those of you who may be interested, Sargent Wikoff directed me to this book: Emotional Survival for Police which talks about the emotional realities of policing.
I took my policing class last semester with Sargent Wikoff. Throughout the whole semester, he emphasized what he believed to be the most important rule of being a police officer: going home at the end of the day. After doing light research on this topic, I appreciate his advice even more. If I do get the chance of becoming a police officer, this is advice I will undoubtedly never forget.