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More protection for protectors

Dear Law Enforcement Friends and Supporters:

Sadly, every Police Week we are confronted with the mortal dangers our nation's law enforcement officers face while protecting us. With a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty every 53 hours, it's inevitable. Below please find for your information and distribution the annual op-ed piece I craft in honor of our nation's fallen officers. This year I've included specific information about what the public can do to reduce line of duty deaths. I ask that you publish this op-ed where possible, and distribute it widely among our fellow law enforcement supporters. Thank you.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The recent fatal shooting of Fairfax County (VA) Police Detective Vicky O. Armel, 40, in a police station parking lot is a shocking reminder of the deadly dangers faced by all law enforcement professionals every day on our behalf. As with Detective Armel and her colleague, Michael E. Garbarino, who was critically wounded in the attack, a police officer never knows when that life-threatening moment may come, but they know it could come on the very next call.

The statistics tell the story. According to the FBI, there were 59,373 assaults against law enforcement officers during 2004 (latest data available), resulting in 16,565 injuries. Ambush-style assaults, like the one that cost Detective Armel her life, occurred 189 times during 2004 and have resulted in more than 400 names being added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. throughout our nation's history.

Disturbance calls tend to be the most dangerous call of all, resulting in 18,234 assaults against police officers in 2004, nearly a third of the total. Next are attempting arrests (9,674); handling, transporting, custody of prisoners (7,748); traffic pursuits/stops (6,568); and investigating suspicious persons/circumstances (5,532).

In 2005, 155 law enforcement officers lost their lives protecting and serving our nation; that averages out to one officer killed somewhere in America nearly every other day. The numbers emphasize that for our nation's law enforcement professionals there is no such thing as a "routine call." More attention tends to be focused on officers who are shot to death. However, for the last eight consecutive years, there have been more officers killed in traffic-related incidents than were killed by firearms. In fact, over the past 30 years, there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of law officers killed in automobile crashes, while the number of firearms-related deaths has dropped by about that same percentage.

We, as a nation, are duty-bound to provide our officers with every safety advantage possible. That means better training, less-lethal weaponry, bullet-resistant vests, and safer automobiles. We are making advances. During the 1970s, an average of 236 law enforcement fatalities occurred each year, compared to 164 officers killed annually during the past decade — a 30 percent drop. But, we should not take the deaths of 164 of our protectors for granted. More can and must be done to keep our officers safe.

The week of May 14-20, 2006, is National Police Week. It is a time to honor the more than 800,000 sworn federal, state and local officers who put their lives on the line for our safety and protection. It is also a time to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our officers have the resources they need to do their job effectively and safely.

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