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Officer Deaths on the Rise

Officer Deaths on the Rise

St. Joseph News-Press

May 21, 2011

With law enforcement deaths on the rise, officers take this week, National Police Week, to remember those officers who have lost their life while protecting the communities they served.

The number of officers killed in the line of duty has increased dramatically over the past two and a half years, according to statistics provided by the Officer Down Memorial Page. In 2009, 132 officers died in the line of duty, with 47 of their deaths from gunfire; in 2010, 158 officers died, 59 by gunfire; and so far in 2011, there have been 67 officers who have lost their lives, 31 by gunfire. Even more alarming, said Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Hardin, is so far in 2011, an officer has lost his or her life every 55 hours.

“Those sound almost like war numbers more than you would think of on the streets of the United States,” Mr. Hardin said.

With officer deaths on the rise, the St. Joseph Police Department has become more vigilant in the way it responds to calls . Capt. Kevin Castle, spokesman for the St. Joseph Police Department, said officers are aware of the statistics as they are made available, especially the way the officer was killed, in order to better understand how to respond to similar situations.

“Officers are trained to practice good officer safety skills daily regardless of the situation, so what is happening nationally is really just more of a reminder of why they need to be vigilant in everything they do,” he said.

Mr. Hardin said dangerous situations officers face could come from any routine call, whether it be a traffic stop, a domestic violence situation or a shots fired call.

For the first three months of 2011, violent crimes in St. Joseph have decreased from last year, but property crimes are slightly higher. Violent crime numbers from April and May are expected to be a “little higher,” than last year but the reports have yet to be released, Mr. Castle said, stressing that it’s difficult to speculate if any numbers are statistically significant when only comparing the first few months of the year.

Despite that, the numbers are still disheartening, Mr. Hardin said, especially since public safety departments across the nation are facing budget cuts, creating an increased risk not only for the public, but for fellow officers as well. In St. Joseph, two officers were cut in the department over the last year, leaving only nine officers to patrol the streets on a given night, which is only one officer for every 8,000 people, he said.

“It’s a dangerous game, it’s a dangerous profession. At the end of the day we’re going to do our best to go home to our families and citizens have to understand that. If we happen to come up on a situation and a citizen thinks we’re being too abrasive, they have to understand that we’re doing it for officer safety, to protect ourselves and other officers,” Mr. Hardin said.

With National Police Week this week, officers continue to remember the 20,000 law enforcement who have lost their lives nationwide, 17 of which served the community of St. Joseph.

Last weekend, Officer Dan De Kraai’s name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, and every year from now his name will be read in a national roll call of fallen officers. Four officers from the St. Joseph Police Department, along with Mr. De Kraai’s family, were there for the ceremony.

Locally, a memorial was held last week and officers will be wearing mourning bands over their badges this week in honor of those who died.

“We’re never going to forget these heroes who made a difference just trying to protect people they don’t even know…,” Mr. Hardin said. “We’re going to recognize and remember their sacrifices they made to both the law enforcement community and the communities they serve.”

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