We're seven months into the year, and our line of duty deaths now tally 105, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Sadly, that’s exactly where we were this time last year.
Fifteen officers lost their lives during the month of July. Not a single death is any less tragic than another, regardless of the cause, but this month has been a really strange mix of LODDs and, candidly, many of them were absolutely unnecessary.
Six officers died as a result of gunfire: two during response to domestic violence, one during warrant service, one during an arrest of an armed robbery suspect, one during a search for an armed suspect and one when he was off-duty and engaged a robbery suspect.
Six officers died in vehicle incidents: One died from injuries sustained in an on-duty automobile accident; one lost control when responding to a request for assistance on a DUI; one lost control during a pursuit; one happened when two police cars collided; one was struck while placing spike strips; and a sheriff died when he pulled out in front of an oncoming vehicle that was operated by his grandson, a deputy for the same department.
Two officers died in training incidents--one from internal bleeding after he struck a building during a rappelling exercise and one from internal bleeding after he became disoriented during intense SWAT testing.
One deputy died as a result of drowning when he attempted to rescue a girl from a raging river. The 29-year-old deputy had been married less than one month.
Cops do not have to die in the numbers that we continue to see. It’s imperative that we objectively look at where changes can be made to prevent future deaths. It would be insensitive and inappropriate to begin second-guessing each of the above losses, but we must not simply move on and accept this as the norm.
Even with the brief descriptions provided above, it’s evident that there are obvious areas for constructive change and improvement in safety. Doing this will save lives.
It's sometimes assumed that shootings are unpredictable and therefore unpreventable. This is not a given, and we must remember that, regardless of location, size of agency or type of community, there’s a reason that law officers carry guns and wear body armor. When firearms are believed to be involved, a different type of engagement is warranted. This is painful to say but I have learned that at least one of these shooting deaths was easily preventable. The officer lost focus, failed to consider the WIN (What’s Important Now?) factor and became complacent when dealing with a subject believed to be armed. He paid with his life.
We must hold each other accountable. We must have the courageous conversations. Challenge others when you see them taking unnecessary chances and when you see them failing to use basic safety equipment like seat belts and body armor. Do your part to honor those who have fallen and strive to improve officer safety in every facet of your job. You can make a difference and we can bring down the number of annual line-of-duty deaths.
END OF WATCH: JULY 2011
Law Officer thanks each of these officers for their service, and sends its sincerest condolences to their friends, families and fellow brothers and sisters in blue.
July 3: Sheriff James "Dee" D. Stewart, Spalding County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department
Spalding (Ga.) Sheriff Dies; Was Injured in Crash Last Month
July 3: Deputy Sheriff John Mecklenburg, Hernando (Fla.) County Sheriff's Office
Fla. Deputy Killed in Four-County Chase Remembered
July 3: Patrolman II Timothy Warren, Memphis (Tenn.) Police Department
Police Officer, Civilian Killed in Downtown Memphis Hotel
July 5: Patrol Officer Elieser “Eli” Colonroche, Sanford (N.C.) Police Department
North Carolina Officer Injured During Training Dies
July 8: Police Officer Bryan Mitchell Hebert, Beaumont (Texas) Police Department
Beaumont Texas Officer Struck, Killed by Suspect’s Vehicle
July 8: Sergeant Steven Kenner, Bismarck (N.D.) Police Department
Bismarck Officer Shot and Killed During Domestic Disturbance
July 10: Police Officer Ryan Stringer, Alhambra (Calif.) Police Department
Calif. Officer Killed When Two Patrol Cars Collide
July 11: Police Officer Brent Long, Terre Haute (Ind.) Police Department
Terre Haute Officer and Suspect Dead in Gunfight, K-9 Wounded
July 14: Deputy Sheriff Roger Rice, Laurens County (S.C.) Sheriff's Office
South Carolina Officer Killed in Shooting
July 14: Detective Fermin "Sonny" Archer, New York City Police Department, New York
NYPD Officer Dies from Injuries Sustained in On-Duty Accident
July 15: Agent Luis E. Gomez-Crespo, Puerto Rico Police Department
Off-Duty Puerto Rico Officer Shot, Killed During a Robbery
July 20: Deputy Sheriff Richard "Rick" Joseph Daly, Clayton County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office
Atlanta Sheriff's Deputy Shot to Death Serving Warrant
July 28: Deputy Sheriff Bryan P. Gross, Converse County (Wyo.) Sheriff's Office
Body of Wyoming Deputy Lost in Water Rescue Recovered
July 30: Police Officer Daniel Ackerman, Buena Park (Calif.) Police Department
Calif. Officer Collapses During SWAT Training, Dies
July 30: Police Officer Russell M. Willingham Jr., Winston-Salem (N.C.) Police Department
Winston-Salem Officer Dies in Vehicle Accident