By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Deaths in line of duty
Placeholder Image
This past year was tough nationwide for law enforcement officers, with 181 of them having died in the line of duty. The last law enforcement death of 2007 occurred on December 31, in Maryland, when a motorist ran over Officer Courtney G. Brooks while he was placing traffic direction cones for a New Years' Eve event. The motorist fled the scene and got away -- at first, but was arrested the next morning.

The 181 law enforcement deaths represents a 23 percent increase over 2006, indicating an increasing trend of violence in most metropolitan areas nationwide. In California, 10 officers were killed, with the most recent being the senseless killing of Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Vu Nguyen. Deputy Nguyen was gunned down by a 16 year old male who was reported to possess criminal gang member characteristics.

As stated in a recent Sacramento Bee article, "not only are more officers being killed in the line of duty, more are being killed with guns, figures show. Nguyen was the 69th officer shot and killed in the line of duty this year, a 33 percent increase over the number of officers felled by gunfire last year and the highest total since 72 were shot in 2001, figures show." With the exception of 2001, when the World Trade Center terrorist attacks spiked the number of law enforcement deaths, 2007 proved to be the deadliest year for law enforcement in 10 years. Sadly, we have no reason to believe that 2008 will be any better. Vehicle collisions, shooting deaths and being struck by vehicles are among the most frequent causes of officers' deaths.

The average age of the officers killed in 2007 was 38 years, and they had approximately 10 years' experience in the profession. This suggests that the causes were not necessarily "rookie mistakes;" rather, it reflects the statistic that the bulk of officers employed in the profession fall within that particular age demographic. It also suggests that, based on typical family patterns, most of these officers were married and had one or more children.

These peace officers made the ultimate sacrifice for the people they were sworn to protect. The effects of being in that position go well beyond the individual who wears the badge. Their surviving families, friends and relatives also make an often-overlooked sacrifice as they go on living with their loss for the remainder of their lives. It also summons up the stark reminder of how fragile life really is, and how quickly and without warning a valuable life can be taken away. It is hard to imagine all that is at stake when a person becomes a sworn peace officer.

We are in a society that has a growing number of people in it who have no respect for life and who seem to have no conscious. The officers killed statistics tell but a small part of the whole violence against law enforcement story. There are tens of thousands of unpublicized incidents each year, nationwide, in which officers are injured, shot, assaulted or attacked, but who manage to survive the trauma. Law enforcement officers are being assaulted and attacked with increasing viciousness and frequency. We all have to keep in mind that they are the thin blue line that keeps society from entering a state of anarchy.

Despite the dangers that await them, law enforcement officers will report to duty every day to fulfill their oaths to protect and serve. And while they are our protectors, we also have a duty to give them the best equipment, our support and appreciation. There have been far too many peace officer funerals. We must take the steps to reverse the trend. As a society, we can make the officers' job safer, and hence our own lives, if we insist that the criminal justice system treats those who kill, injure or assault them with the most rigorous criminal sanctions possible.