Written by: Greg Ellifritz
The FBI recently released its annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. According to the FBI webpage:
“The FBI publishes Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted each year to provide information about officers who were killed, feloniously or accidentally, and those officers who were assaulted while performing their duties.”
I find the report to be a treasure trove of information about cop-killing violent criminals. It should be mandatory reading for every police officer. Armed citizens will also find the information useful as the criminals who prey on cops also regularly attack citizens in a similar manner.
The report is long. It doesn’t matter. Take the time to read it. You may learn something that will save your life.
One of the most interesting sections is the chapter of Summaries of Officers Feloniously Killed. The chapter provides short descriptions of the circumstances involved in all 72 felonious police deaths last year. Take your time to analyze each situation. If you are a cop, figure out how you might use the lessons presented in this report to improve your tactics and awareness. Don’t let these officers’ deaths be in vain. They would want you to learn from their mistakes.
Several interesting facts jumped out at me this year. While I’m only barely scratching the surface of the report, here are some of my thoughts…
- Numbers of officers killed. This table shows that for the last 10 years, LE deaths have hovered in a very narrow range. During every year in that time frame LE deaths averaged around 50 per year. Last year it was 72. It could be a statistical anomaly. It could also mean that people are getting ever more desperate and violent.
- Deaths from rifle fire is down. Over a 10 year period, rifle wounds led to the deaths of an average of almost 20% of officers. This year it was less than 10%.
- Very few officers die from knife assaults. Only three officers were stabbed to death in the last 10 years of reporting. The statement “I’d rather be shot than stabbed” truly displays the ignorance of the speaker.
- The age of the average officer killed has not changed. It has hovered around 38 for more than a decade. It’s not the rookies or the old guys who are getting killed. The ones dying are experienced officers in the prime of their career. They tend to feel more comfortable with their abilities and have years of good outcomes under their belts. This confidence can hurt them.
- Only 4% of officers last year were killed with their own weapon. The 10-year average is almost 10%. This is one of the few positive data points in this report. Either officers are getting better weapon retention training or are using better quality retention holsters. Both are good developments.
- 15% of officers killed were off duty during the attack. Why would any police officer choose not to carry his gun off duty? Some officers’ laziness and apathy are astounding to me.
- 7.62 x 39mm rifles (generally AK and SKS style) killed the majority of officers who were killed with a rifle. That’s a nasty round that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. A friend who once had a primary role training overseas agents with a certain three-letter federal agency once told me “I saw the results of quite a few rifle gunfights in South and Central America. I won’t say everyone died after being hit by an AK, but I never saw anyone continuing to fight after getting shot with it.” The AK-47 deserves a little more respect from American shooters and cops.
- Nearly half of all officers killed were closer than five feet from their assailant. We clearly need more work preparing officers for extreme close quarters shooting situations.
- Only one officer in the last 10 years was killed from body armor that failed. Every shot that killed all of the remaining officers struck a part of the body that wasn’t covered or exceeded the ballistic rating of the vest worn. It’s clear that body armor works. If you don’t wear your vest on duty, you need to adjust your attitude. Blood is way worse than sweat.
- Only 20% of killers were drunk or high at the time of the officer’s death. Only 7% were mentally ill. Police deaths can’t generally be blamed on these factors. People who kill cops are usually sane and sober. They are just exceptionally violent psychopaths. Everyone needs to acknowledge that people like this exist.
- Several officers were killed during foot pursuits when rounding corners or climbing fences. Basic tactics involving use of space and proper cornering angles are critical when officers are pursuing criminals. Climbing fences puts officers in a very bad tactical position (they generally can’t shoot and climb at the same time) and should be avoided.
- I noted several killers first shot officers in the body or limbs. When the officers went down, the killers approached and fired multiple head shots to finish the officer. If you are shot, stay in the fight! Be able to draw and fire your weapon from the ground as well as from standing positions.
- Several officers were killed while attempting to use a Taser against the killer. I think we put too much trust in the abilities of this device to reliably stop a violent criminal. Too many things can go wrong. In any situation where lethal force is probable, officers should only use Tasers if they have adequate lethal force cover fire available.
- More than 2000 officers were assaulted with a firearm last year, yet only 9.4% of them were injured. That means a lot of criminals fire shots at cops, but miss. Assuming that multiple shots were fired in at least some of the incidents, criminal hit rates are well under 10%. That’s a good thing for the cops being shot at, but may not be a good thing for anyone else around. Those bullets have to hit something! If you see cops with drawn weapons, get out of the area or seek cover. Don’t hang around to watch or you might get hit by one of the 90% of bullets criminals fire that miss the intended target!
- 10.2% of officers in the USA were assaulted last year. If you are a cop and your firearms/DT skills aren’t up to par, get some training!
Most of these observations are directed at my police officer readers. If you aren’t a cop, what does this report mean for you?
I would assert that this report is just as important for the armed citizen as it is for the police officer. 83% of the offenders in the study had prior criminal records. 22% were on probation or parole at the time they killed a cop. Who do you think were victimized by the killers’ previous crimes? You guessed it…people like you. The same criminals who kill cops also victimize armed citizens. Study your enemy and be prepared!