Police officer fatalities up in 2014

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – It’s a statistic no police officer wants to hear, but it’s happening nationwide.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said fatalities in the line of duty are up 37 percent from this time last year. Of the 63 reported deaths, 23 involved guns.

“There are dangers now that we face, that we’ve never faced before,” said Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly.

Flannelly said while gun violence has always been a concern among officers, what’s perhaps most concerning now is what’s become a common ambush style of attack.

“I think just the propensity now for individuals to go into a work place, go into a mall, to go into a school, to find police officers sitting in a cafe,” said Flannelly. “The things that you don’t see coming, those are the ones that really concern us.”

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis began his career as a Lafayette Police officer back in 1984. He said back then, their biggest concern was much different than it is today.

“A lot of it dealt with motorcycle gangs,” said Dennis. “I think there’s a cliché term now, ‘the outlaw motorcycle gang,’ but that was in essence what we spent a lot of our time concerning ourselves with.”

So, is it more dangerous now to be a police officer?

Both Dennis and Flannelly said it’s hard to say. Being an officer, they said, has always been and will be a dangerous job.

“To say that it’s more dangerous, I don’t know that I would necessarily say that, but there definitely is a lot more specialized training. Police officers are definitely more prepared for those dangerous situations, and they’re very able to handle those, and that’s what keeps our community so safe,” said Dennis.

Flannelly said while his department is always undergoing new safety training, he said what’s perhaps most important is the one thing that will never change.

“Complacency is really the biggest enemy of any police officer,” said Flannelly. “The minute you feel safe, is the minute you let your guard down.”

The increase in fatalities to date comes after two years of declines. The year 2013 saw the lowest number of deaths on duty since back in 1959.

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