End of Watch: September 2011

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo Dale Stockton)

We are now three-fourths of the way through 2011, and we’ve lost a total of 131 officers, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Tragically, that’s about 5% above where we were this time last year. Until the last day of September, it was looking like the month was going to be a good one, but on Sept. 30, three officers lost their lives – one to gunfire and two in an accident.

None of these deaths were anything less than tragic, regardless of the cause, but this month has once again proven that officers are regularly dying as a result of factors beyond gunfire. Candidly, many of them were probably preventable. This is what we must be willing to discuss and learn from so that others might live.
One officer lost his life to gunfire – a fish and game lieutenant whose body was found after he reported he was investigating gunfire. He died of a shotgun blast to his chest and initial reports indicate that it may have been an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

One officer lost his life when he was stabbed by a suspect after a foot chase.

Three officers died as a result of heart or breathing issues. One died of a heart attack while assisting another officer. One collapsed after a training run and died, and one died after having difficulty breathing while securing a devastated wildfire area. All of these officers were younger than 40 years old.

Five officers died in vehicle incidents. One lost control of his car and struck a tree. One lost control of his car and it overturned several times. One was killed and another officer injured when a vehicle struck them on the side of the road. Two reserve deputy sheriffs were killed when their patrol car ran into a large trailer being pulled by a truck. 

It must be said again and again that cops do not have to die in the numbers that we continue to see. We must objectively and constructively examine each loss and identify opportunities to make changes that will prevent future deaths. Although it would be inappropriate to begin second-guessing each of these losses, we must not simply move on and accept them as a cost of doing business. These are huge losses to everyone in law enforcement and absolutely devastating to their families and departments.

Here’s the bottom line: Even with the brief narratives above, it’s clear that there are line-of-duty deaths that can be prevented. We owe it to fellow officers and ourselves to have the courageous conversations about practices that may lead to injury or death. Doing so will save lives.

It's notable that three of these deaths occurred due to heart or breathing problems in officers younger than 40. One was only 28. This should be a wake-up call to all that your health cannot be taken for granted. Have you had a physical lately? Do you know your blood pressure, and do you practice good eating habits?

Going forward, we must hold each other accountable and speak up when we see others taking unnecessary chances or failing to use safety equipment like seatbelts and body armor. Together we can make a difference. We must make a difference. Remember Below 100. It’s the right thing to do.

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.

Sept. 10: Cpl. Kevin Aigner, Travis County (Texas) Constable's Office, Precinct 2
Texas Constable Guarding Wildfire-Damaged Homes Collapses, Dies

Sept. 12: Police Officer Sherman Abrams, New York City Police Department
NYPD Officer Collapses During Training Exercise, Dies

Sept. 13: Officer Eric Charles Fontes, Honolulu (Hawaii) Police Department
Honolulu Officer Struck, Killed During Traffic Stop; Second Officer Injured

Sept. 16: Lt. Joseph Szczerba, New Castle (Del.) County Police Department
Delaware Police Officer Stabbed to Death

Sept. 18: Deputy Sheriff Derrick Whittle, Union County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office
Georgia Deputy Hurt in Crash Dies

Sept. 20: Trooper Mark Toney, Iowa State Patrol
Iowa State Trooper Dies in Rollover Crash

Sept. 28: Deputy Sheriff Bryan Sleeper, Burleigh County (N.D.) Sheriff's Department
North Dakota Deputy Dies after Assisting with DUI Arrest

Sept. 30: Sgt. Paul Stuckey, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
La. Wildlife Agent Found Dead in Woods

Sept. 30: Reserve Deputy Sheriff Mike Roberts, Pottawatomie County (Oklahoma) Sheriff's Office
Oklahoma Reserve Deputy Killed in Vehicle Accident

Sept. 30: Reserve Deputy Sheriff Tim Lowry, Pottawatomie County (Oklahoma) Sheriff's Office
Oklahoma Reserve Deputy Killed in Vehicle Accident


Grand Jury Indicts Baltimore Officers

Six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray have been charged by grand jury.

Suspect Fires on Officers in South Carolina Standoff

Police return fire and kill man who fired on them during a standoff in Charleston.

Survey Finds Increased School Security

Public schools have increased measures following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

DNA Identifies Suspect in D.C. Homicide

Three adults and a child were found dead inside their burning home.

Omaha Officer Killed While Serving Warrant

Gunfire during the arrest of a fugitive claims an officer.

Details in Killing of Philadelphia Officer

Officer Wilson has entered the store to buy a birthday present for his older son.