Traffic Stops Present Danger to Police

It didn’t take long at all for the news from Mississippi about the murder of two policemen to drop off the front pages and the homepages and fade into oblivion on page 8B of your newspaper or deep into the archives of your favorite website.

This lack of outcry on the part of journalists, bloggers and activists, especially compared to the furor that follows shootings done by police in the line of duty, much of it justified, only serves to emphasize what a dangerous, thankless job law enforcement officers have.

The slain officers in Mississippi were not oppressing anyone or violating any regulations. They were merely making a traffic stop. The shooting suspects are also accused of fleeing in the officers’ car.

Beware of disturbance calls

Traffic stops are among the most dangerous actions an officer can take, according to statistics. But traffic stops and pursuits were not the biggest threat to officers in 2014. That dubious distinction goes to disturbance calls, including domestic disturbances, which claimed the lives of 11 officers last year.

Disturbance calls and traffic stops sound relatively harmless to the untrained ear. Veteran officers, however, understand what is at stake. Citizens fighting tooth and nail among themselves can often turn on peace officers trying to break things up.

Why is that? Do they enjoy fighting? Do they have a grudge against cops? Or are they so pumped up with adrenaline or alcohol or drugs that it is difficult for them to downshift on a dime from all-out attack mode to a peaceful posture. It takes skill and finesse to handle these situations and even then they are fraught with peril.

In third place come ambush attacks, mostly premeditated but about 20 percent of them fall into the category of spontaneous. You’ve heard the expression about danger lurking behind every turn, or behind every tree. Our sworn officers of the law live that reality every time they put on the uniform. The bullet that costs their children a parent could come at anytime from anywhere.

Performing investigative activities

Also loaded with danger are situations where cops are investigating suspicious persons or circumstances. Five officers died in 2014 from injuries suffered while they were performing investigative activities.

How could that happen? On TV the investigators are neatly dressed in civilian clothes and are almost always in control of the situation. Well, real life is more of a mess.

At the bottom of the list of deadly police situations, but by no means to be taken lightly, are tactical situations, dealing with people who have a mental illness, and drug-related encounters.

The lesson to be learned? Let’s be careful out there.

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