Police shootings highlight rising violence and distrust


Over a 24-hour period last Wednesday, several police officers from departments across the country were shot in the line of duty.

In Decatur, Illinois, two police officers were shot while conducting a traffic stop, and officers shot and killed the suspect, police said.

In Philadelphia, three SWAT team members were shot while executing a warrant, and officers shot and killed the subject, officials said.

And in Bristol, Connecticut, three officers were shot – two fatally – in an ambush while responding to a report of domestic disturbance, and the surviving officer shot and killed the subject, a said the police.

The suspect fired more than 80 rounds at police, according to a press release from the Connecticut Inspector General’s office.

In total, from Monday to Friday last week, 13 police officers were shot – amid increased violence against law enforcement this year. From the beginning of the year to September 30, 252 police officers have been shot, 50 of them fatally, according to the Fraternal Order of Police, an organization representing American law enforcement.

Bristol Police Sgt.  Dustin Demonte, left, and Officer Alex Hamzy, center, were killed and Officer Alec Iurato was injured in an ambush Oct. 12, police said.

This number of officers shot represents a 5% increase from the same period in 2021 and a 6% increase from the same period in 2020, according to the organization’s data. Last year, 73 officers were intentionally killed in the line of duty, the most since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, according to FBI data.

The Fraternal Order of Police figures differ from FBI data, which shows 49 felony killings and ten fatal ambush attacks, down slightly from last year’s total.

“I am outraged. I am disgusted. I wonder where the level of outrage and upset is outside of the law enforcement community,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said. “Right now things are not right because the level of violence we are seeing against our law enforcement officers is just outrageous.”

The increase in violence against police officers in recent years mirrors the broader increase in shootings and violence in the United States since 2020.

Criminology experts such as Thomas Abt, senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, have cited some potential explanations: the unraveling of social ties due to the Covid-19 pandemic; the murder of George Floyd and the rise in public distrust of the police and an increase in gun sales and gun ownership.

Although explanations for any violent crime vary, the FBI has attempted to piece together an explanation for why some people attack police officers. A 2016 report, summarized in an FBI document provided to law enforcement in May 2017, examined 50 police shootings and found that the top two motives for the attackers were a desire to evade arrest (40 %) and their hatred of the police (28%).

So far this year, there have been 63 “ambush” attacks on officers, resulting in 93 injuries, 24 of them fatally, according to the Fraternal Order of Police.

Officials said the fatal shooting in Bristol last week, which left two people dead and one seriously injured, was one such incident. Police had received a 911 call about a possible domestic incident between two siblings and arrived to find a suspect who had shot them, authorities said. Officials described the 911 call as “a deliberate act to draw law enforcement to the scene.”

Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said the officers who died epitomized bravery in policing, just as many police officers do every day.

“They answered a call to duty, and they answered without hesitation,” he said. “And that’s what they did every night before that. And that’s what all of our officers do and will continue to do.

There are even risks for off-duty agents. In Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday, a 15-year-old opened fire and killed five people, including Gabriel Torres, a 29-year-old off-duty police officer who was on his way to work. Two people, including a responding officer, also suffered gunshot wounds. The suspect is hospitalized in critical condition and will be charged as an adult, authorities said.

In one of four 911 calls obtained by CNN, a caller told a dispatcher that the shooter was wearing camouflage and looked 16 years old. The caller said the shooter “walked by and shot” a police officer “for no reason”.

Outlaw, the Philadelphia police commissioner, said she felt a hole in her stomach when she learned last week that three of her department’s officers had been shot.

“We signed up to do this understanding the risk, understanding the danger, but we didn’t sign up for these jobs to be martyrs. We just didn’t,” she said.

“It has to go beyond people like me, police chiefs, superintendents or commissioners who speak out against this. Everyone must come together and recognize that the violence against our police officers is intolerable, just as the violence in other parts of our communities is equally intolerable.

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