West: It's dangerous for police officers

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A new FBI report shows just how dangerous it is to be a law enforcement officer, particularly in the South.

Sixteen law enforcement officers were killed by criminal actions during the first six months of 2015, the FBI report reveals.
The officers died as a result of:
6 were performing traffic pursuits or starts;
3 were ambushed:
3 were investigating suspicious persons or circumstances;
2 were involved in tactical situations;
1 was answering a robbery call;
1 was answering a burglary call.

Seven of the 16 officers were employed by law enforcement agencies in the South; 5 in the West; 2 in the Northeast and 2 in the Midwest.
Fourteen of the officers were killed by suspects using firearms (8 handguns, 3 rifles and 3 firearms types not reported. Two of the officers were killed by subjects using a motor vehicle as a weapon.
If there is any good news out of the report, the totals are less than the comparable period in 2014. In 2014, 21 officers were slain by criminals from Jan. 1 through June 2.

Those totals don't include police officers who were accidentally killed. Twenty more officers died as the result of accidents:
12 were in automobile accidents;
2 were struck by automobiles;
2 were accidentally shot;
1 died in a motorcycle crash;
1 died in an ATV accident.

Fourteen of these accidental victims were from the South; 2 in the West and 2 in the Northeast.

So when taken on face value, what does this report tell us?

It is more dangerous to be a police officer in the South.

Why? Determining that answer isn't easy. You can't really go by statistics.

For example, Tennessee was ranked America's Most Dangerous State back in 2013 , according to web site, Law Street. (Note that the report analyzed cities with more than 25,000 people.) The report showed murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery statistics from 2012. Tennessee came in at number one an average of 643.6 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

Another major report just looked at aggravated assault cases and pointed out that "Crime is particularly concentrated in Memphis, where 1,656 violent crimes per 100,000 city residents were reported in 2013, the third highest among all U.S. cities. The poverty rate and other economic factors were also much worse in the city than in the state as a whole."

Other reports show that Tennessee is home to the 4th highest percentage of obese residents, 7th highest on the list of cardiovascular deaths and 15th lowest on visits to the dentist.

So, if the national studies are right, Tennessee is the home to a bunch of fat, rotten-toothed, heart-attack victims. Oops, forgot to ad VIOLENT to that list.
So, it's obvious, you can't draw such conclusions from a hodgepodge of data.

However, the FBI stats regarding law enforcement deaths isn't subject to reinterpretation. They speak for themselves. Being a law enforcement agent in Tennessee has more than its share of dangers.

So how can the law-abiding citizen help make things safer?

"By paying better attention" is one answer. If you hear a siren or see flashing lights, pull over and get out of the way. Practice the golden rule. Treat the officer like you would want to be treated.

Often, citizens and law enforcement meet in what are called routine traffic stops. Sometimes those stops turn out to be anything but routine. Officers find uninsured drivers, drivers with suspended licenses, impaired drivers, illegal firearms, drugs and fugitives. Discoveries like these are all in a day's work for many officers, but don't be surprised if the officer takes a defensive posture at the stop until the risk of confrontation or injury is diminished.

One of the most important things a citizen can do is teach your children to respect and to talk to law enforcement officers when they meet them in the community or schools. Help them realize that officers serve and protect everyone in the community. We must continue to pass-on, from generation to generation, respect for professional law enforcement officers.

In turn officers should treat law-abiding citizens with respect. After all, its "us good folks" versus the criminals.

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Mike West
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