Cops are dying. What are we doing about it?

If you want to prevent police shootings, then quit bitching and do something.

Last Saturday night six police officers were shot in this country. Three incidents in which two officers were shot. Police departments use after-action reports and investigations to prosecute the offender (if the offender wasn’t killed) and ostensibly to examine the events in order to learn from what occurred to hopefully improve safety. That’s the goal, right?

In Uniontown, PA, state troopers were shot while attempting to arrest an individual they believed was dealing in stolen property (Xbox taken from a recent burglary). During a struggle, the w/m suspect pulled out a .38 revolver and fired. The bullet went through one trooper’s hand and struck the second trooper in the abdomen. Troopers returned fire and killed the suspect. The suspect, a felon and registered sex offender, still had a firearm in his possession and used it to shoot officers.

In Jacksonville, FL, officers responded to a call about a suicidal subject threatening others in the home. Upon arrival, officers heard shots, and fearing for the others in the home, decided to enter. Suspect shot the officers through the door with an assault-style rifle. One officer was shot in both hands, the other officer was shot in the abdomen. Officers were able to return fire and kill the suspect. The suspect was mentally ill but still had access to an assault rifle used to shoot officers.

In Kissimmee, FL, officers were checking out a group of suspicious individuals and one suspect physically resisted. During the struggle, the suspect shot both officers with a revolver. When located later that night, the suspect was in possession of a revolver and semi-automatic handgun. Both officers died from their injuries. The suspect is a retired marine with a history of mental illness, and still had weapons.

My friends, I’ve written about mental illness, felons, and guns and law enforcement in the past. I’m angry that as a country and a profession, we refuse to speak out forcefully and loudly on these issues. I’m sick of politics getting in the way. I’m sick of hearing about Second Amendment rights.

When are we going to demand a change in policy? When are we going to take proactive steps to remove firearms from these homes? Why don’t we stand up and say this is inexcusable?

We can get angry and yell about police officers dying, but what good does it do if we don’t take real action? Felons and mentally ill persons are responsible for the majority of police killings. Mental illness is a factor in up to 50% of all police shootings. We have to honestly look at the problem in order to start solving it. Proactively removing firearms from these individuals and their homes would dramatically reduce the likelihood of police shootings.

If we could possibly prevent half of police shootings, why wouldn’t we? We know these two categories of subjects we deal with are the biggest threats. It’s time to do something real instead of wringing our hands and wiping our tears. Our refusal to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people is a self-inflicted problem. That is the truth. Cops keep dying. We say we care.

What are we going to do about it?

9 thoughts on “Cops are dying. What are we doing about it?

    • You’re absolutely right, Chief. It’s really way past time to start having reality based conversations about things we can actually do instead of hiding behind one-liners and faulty allegiances.

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  1. I agree with the spirit of what you’ve written.

    I find myself wondering, however, whether the near universal lack of support for the mentally ill means that these people typically live with others–family or friends–and often in a casual or transient way. Wouldn’t those hosts still have the right to own guns, thus making them available in the home to the mentally ill individual?

    (People should secure their guns, but people should also stop overeating and wear seatbelts to prevent untimely death. Ha ha.)

    How much does preventing a “mentally ill” person (or a convicted felon) from officially owning guns actually do to keep weapons out of his/her hands? Does any law prevent them from living in a home where someone else owns a weapon, as some convicted sex offenders are kept away from children?

    Also, considering health/privacy laws, how does the mental illness status get communicated to the people who sell guns? It isn’t a public list, like (I assume) there is of convicted felons, is it?

    I’m not a gun owner, so I’m sincerely asking these questions. My knowledge of how buying a gun works comes from crime shows on TV, though I understand it varies a lot between states.

    The overlap between privacy (regarding health issues) and the public good is once again the hot zone. I lean toward an assumption that, where the government begins to intervene, the person with the medical issue must give up some privacy, or these issues will only get messier and less effective.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

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    • Willow, these are all good questions. I do not advocate for violating anyones privacy or rights. However, we have always had exceptions and restrictions on universal rights in areas of public safety. I am actually advocating for this in the interest of the greater good. Fact: Felons cannot possess or own guns. But in most cases, nobody goes to their home to confiscate any other weapons. Fact: A law was on the books to “flag” mental illness, giving the FBI background investigators the ability to examine whether that individual should have firearms. It was the first rule undone by our current administration.

      My point is not that there is a magic answer and I realize people have opinions on both sides. I only know that the irrefutable facts are that more than 50% of police shootings involve felons and or mental illness. In policing, we use statistical data to formulate responses to such problems. Given the fact that it is law enforcement who must bear the brunt of this crisis, we owe it to ourselves to call for a better response.

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  2. The same things that reduce violence among all people will also reduce murders of cops.

    Reasonable gun control should be part of it but as far as I can tell it isn’t the most important thing. Mental illness, of course, also needs to be treated; however in the long term it isn’t as important as preventing mental illness from developing in the first place. There is good research available to let people know how to reduce this; however traditional media refuses to report it.

    One of the most important things is to prevent child abuse, including corporal punishment, from escalating to further violence. This is a major contributing cause for mental illness and violence. States that still allow corporal punishment in schools are also more likely to use it at home and have higher child abuse rates which leads to higher murder rates.

    6 to 9 of the states with top ten murder rates are among the 19 that still allow corporal punishment in schools; only 1 of those 19 states makes it into the bottom ten for murder rates. That one is Idaho which hardly uses it the only other that comes close is Wyoming which also hardly use it and they don’t have abandoned inner cities which is another major contributing cause to violence. These 19 states also have over half the cops killed by gunfire even though they’re only about 40% of population.

    These authoritarian states also have the strongest support for the military, or so it seems. One of these shootings was the third high profile shooting to be trained by the US government to fight wars based on lies. Authoritarian training escalates in boot camp where they teach cadets to blindly obey orders without question. They fight wars based on lies then come home and there’s no treatment available for PTSD the government isn’t protecting abandoned inner cities. When people protest government corruption the media and politicians refuse to report on it accurately and address legitimate concerns.

    We need to address those concerns training people to kill then abandoning them without protecting all of society won’t reduce violence. If police obey orders to suppress peaceful protesters enabling politicians to avoid addressing concerns while media refuses to report on best research then they’re not protecting the public or themselves.

    We need to hold corrupt politicians catering to oligarchies and ideological fanatics, accountable to reduce all violence.

    Also 2013 was the lowest year ever for cops dying per capita. It has gone up since then but we’re still very close to the lowest in 1930 307 died; in 1974 it was 280 it’s already been cut in half but not as good as Northern Europe where they educate kids and provide more child care preventing child abuse. repair abandoned inner cities, ban corporal punishment, stop fighting wars based on lies, reform police training as David Couper recommends and address other contributing causes and it can be reduced by another 75% at least before reducing it even more. While that is happening all other violence will go down as well.

    http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/year.html?referrer=http://zacherydtaylor.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-threat-to-police-is-greatly.html

    I think you once said you were sympathetic to these views but that it wasn’t what you were focusing on in that article. Putting the most important causes on the back burner won’t help, although I understand a certain amount of effort to stay on topic.

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    • I hear everything you’re saying. I’m very sympathetic to addressing all violence and changing police culture. Sometimes I try to appeal to what matters (or should matter) to individual officers. Doing what I advocate and removing firearms from these individuals homes, will reduce officer injury/death, but also reduce the incidence of policing shootings as well. It’s not intended as a panacea, but if we can prevent one death, we should. Thanks for stopping by.

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    • At some point, you have to face the fact that what we’re doing isn’t working. Once you accept reality it becomes easier to open your mind to different solutions. I believe we are at a point where the only solutions will be radically different than our current ridiculous thinking that the only answer is more guns for everyone. Thanks for stopping by!

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