I remember a time in the not so distant past when all we had to do was pull up next to an offender and tell him to get in the backseat. We didn’t cuff everyone. Didn’t have to. Back then, most citizens respected police officers and their authority. And police officers respected the citizens of the community. People were also afraid of going to jail.

Things are much different today. For example, in Lenoir County, N.C., six of the sheriff’s office’s twenty-eight deputies have been shot in the line of duty in less than year. One of those deputies did not survive. That’s the same as the total number of deputies shot in the past eleven years.

I know of seventy-three in the line of duty deaths in the U.S. so far this year. Thirty-nine of those deaths were caused by a criminal’s violent actions. Twenty-eight were by hostile gunfire. In 2008, there were a total of 138 police officer deaths – fifty-nine of those deaths were at the hand of a violent criminal.

Let’s go back ten years as a comparison. In 1999, sixty-one officers were killed by offenders. In 1989, ninety-nine officers lost their lives due to gunfire, stabbings, and assaults. One hundred-thirty officers died by the same means in 1979.

So, are the number of cop killings actually declining? Are things like Tasers, pepper spray, and other non-lethal weapons, and better training really working? Or, are cops simply being more cautious, expecting the worst from every single person they contact? Do more officers wear vests than their counterparts of the past? My guess is that it’s a combination of each.

I’ll also bet that today’s cops don’t simply pull up to offenders and tell them to get in the back seat, uncuffed.

Officers killed in the line of duty:

1979 – 214 total officer deaths

1989 – 196 total officer deaths

1999 – 151

2000 – 163

2001 – 242

2002 – 159

2003 – 147

2004 – 164

2005 – 164

2006 – 156

2007 – 192

2008 – 138

2009 – 73 to date

*These numbers represent the number officers who died in the line of duty. The figures do not include the number of officers who were injured or wounded. For example, 108 North Carolina police officers were shot in the year 2007. North Carolina has only 100 counties.

Captain Mike Longo of the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office sums it up in a few simple words, “It’s takes a different person to do this job, but that doesn’t mean we’re made of steel.” Longo was once shot in the arm during a SWAT raid.

  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Here you go, Dave:

    Officer deaths by gunfire

    1979 – 111
    1989 – 69
    1999 – 44
    2000 – 50
    2001 – 65
    2002 – 57
    2003 – 47
    2004 – 55
    2005 – 53
    2006 – 51
    2007 – 65
    2008 – 39
    2009 to date – 28

  2. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Hello, everyone.

    Lee, I would definitely say bullet resistant vests (notice I did not say bullet proof)are the reason for the decline in officer deaths from ’79 to ’99. I wonder what we would see for the same years if the stats were just firearm related deaths? Though I’m not asking you to post them, Lee.

    Few people had a vest in 1979. Those that were available were bulky, heavy, expensive and uncomfortable.

  3. Terry
    Terry says:

    Sometimes I think there’s a synchronicity of blogs. Tomorrow, the chapter from Homicide Detective Hussey deals with the changing attitude toward cops.