By T.B. Lefever:
Another week has come and gone as 2016 draws closer to an end and regretfully, November has surpassed the dog days of July summer as the deadliest month yet, with 20 officers killed by gunfire. The total sits on a 64% increase from 2015 at 61 for the year with over a month to go. In addition to the 61 fatal shootings of American cops, two have drowned, one has been stabbed to death, twelve have been run down by suspect vehicles, and another suffered a fatal fall. All in all, 132 officers have died in the line of duty at the hands of a perp, by accident, or of other job related causes; a number up 12% from last year’s total.
In addition to the loss of human life this year, there have been 32 K-9 line of duty deaths. Just as their human sheepdog counterparts have suffered, “man’s best friend” has been shot, stabbed, run over, asphyxiated, and beaten to death while taking the good fight to the wolves within our society.
If we look at this total and break it down a little bit further, folded American flags will go to the families of 127 males and 5 female officers. Texas, California, Louisiana, Michigan, and my home state of Georgia have withstood the most loss. The average age of the deceased heroes is 41 years old. The average time on the street for an officer suffering line of duty death this year is 13 years and 5 months. These are veteran cops beyond my years of service and likely, in many cases, beyond my years of real experience and training. If it were not for the knack I seem to have in putting typed words on paper, many of them could probably serve as a more formidable “expert” opinion on American law enforcement than I. Yet, they still perished.
Some incidents will be determined “avoidable” by a panel of arm chair quarterbacks, field experts, and training gurus. Some will be determined freak accidents or just a tragic twist of fate where a life was taken too soon. Some will be shown to recruits in the academy to induce learning and understanding of the harsh realities of the job. Some will even be linked to Youtube, Liveleak, and other places where vile comments such as “I love watching pigs get stuck”, “He went out like a b*tch”, and “That cop got what was coming” will inevitably be posted by the very civilians we are sworn to protect.
I can’t even begin to imagine the number of close calls, thank gods, and thought I was a goner’s that police have endured this year. I have yet to find an accurate source even compiling the number of nonfatal incidences of police being shot by suspects anywhere. You would think that there would be an approximate count somewhere. One officer in my department’s life was saved by a single bar of the metal cage in the back window of his patrol car when a .40 caliber bullet blazed its way towards his head this year. I was dragged at a high rate of speed when I tried to arm wrestle a Toyota Camry. Incidents such as these occur every day in our nation but we’re still here.
If there is one thing the uptick in police deaths this year tells me, it is that we are more necessary now than ever before. Some of us have pensions. Some of us don’t. Some of us are unionized. Others are not. Some officers make enough to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads on their base salary. A larger number require “part times”, “extra jobs”, and “off-duties” just to make ends meet. But none of that matters when we’re talking about who got to go home and who didn’t. During a year where “Black lives matter”, “All lives matter”, and “Blue lives matter” have become household phrases, I want to say that I agree with all three. I want to thank everyone out there who has thanked me for my service by saying thank you for your support. I want to thank my colleagues for backing me up on my late night suspicious persons and traffic stops. I’d like to thank my wife and kids for giving me a reason to fight with every ounce of strength in my being to make it home. Most of all, I want to thank the 132 heroes that can’t read this right now and their families who will always remember this year as their worst year. Despite the escalation of danger and the modest salary, thousands upon thousands of new officers will hit the street nationwide to continue the time-honored tradition of fighting crime and serving the community. It may be a few days too late and Thanksgiving has come and gone, but let’s thank the new blood while we’re at it.
T.B. Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.