Saturday, September 02, 2000

Officer dies every 54 hours in U.S.

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Once for each 54 hours in the United States, a police officer meets the fate Kevin Crayon met in the middle of Colerain Avenue early Friday morning.

        An officer is killed on duty.

        Some are shot to death. Some are stabbed. Some die in auto accidents while chasing suspects. Others, like Cincinnati Police Officer Crayon, are struck by vehicles.

        They die in aircraft, are struck by trains, are stabbed with knives or, on rare occasions, are beaten to death.

RELATED archives of recent killings and attacks on Tristate officers:
  • Daniel Pope and Ronald Jeter
  • Mike Partin
  • Kathleen Conway
        And every police officer — whether directing traffic on a downtown street at noon, rattling doorknobs in a business district in the wee hours, or standing by the side of the road at a traffic stop — knows that he could be next.

        “Whenever something like this happens, it should be a wake-up call for the community,” said Craig W. Floyd, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks how officers are assaulted and killed each year nationwide.

        “Sometimes, we wonder why a cop doesn't treat us better in a traffic stop,” Mr. Floyd said. “We wonder why they are so suspicious or cautious or bark at us when we don't do exactly what they say.

        “What we don't understand is that they know that every minute they are doing their jobs could be their last.”

        People generally think of police deaths as situations in which officers are killed in an exchange of gunfire, but guns accounted for 26 percent of the 459 police deaths in the U.S. from 1997 through 1999.

        According to memorial fund figures, of the 76 police officers killed nation wide through June of this year, 26 were shot to death, 24 died in automobile accidents, six were struck by cars while the officers were outside of their police cruisers, five died in aircraft accidents, three drowned, two fell to their deaths, four died of job-related illnesses, two were stabbed, one died in a bicycle accident, and one officer was killed in an ac cident involving a horse.

        Over the past 10 years, there has been an annual average of 160 police deaths, 62,552 assaults on officers and 21,433 injuries to police officers.

        “It is a daily occurrence,” Mr. Floyd said. “You have any number of ways an officer can be injured on the job, whether it's taking down a suspect and getting punched or kicked, or being run over at a traffic stop.

        “No matter how routine the circumstance might appear to be, there is always the threat that you may not walk away from it alive,” Mr. Floyd said.

        Mr. Floyd said officials at the fund, who operate a memorial and museum dedicated to fallen police officers, heard about the death of Officer Crayon early Friday.

        The chairman said the Cincinnati case reminded him of the time 11 years ago when an officer in Massachusetts, Harold Vitale, died after being dragged by a car.

        “I have Harold Vitale's photo on my desk; I look at it every day,” Mr. Floyd said.

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