The Santa Ana Police gang detective is lucky to be alive after a suspect fired a round that grazed the side of his head.
In Orlando, it was a helmet that likely saved the police officer’s life.
On Tuesday, tragedy visited the Kansas City Police Department for the second time since May, when an armed suspect shot and killed 46-year-old Capt. Robert David Melton.
The public servants are among at least 164 police officers shot while on duty so far this year, 32 of them fatally, setting 2016 on pace to be one of the most dangerous years for those who wear a badge, according to an analysis of published reports.
The death toll would be higher, the analysis found, if not for bulletproof vests and helmets, training, instincts and a little bit of luck.
The July 7 mass killing of five police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matters protest followed by Sunday’s killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge cast a white-hot spotlight on the dangers of the job, and left some wondering: Are the streets becoming more perilous for men and women in uniform?
“This is not imagined – the threat is real,” said Ken Corney, Ventura Police Chief and President of the California Police Chiefs Association. “Police departments across the nation have to balance their work with their communities with the necessary training and procedures that keep our officers safe.”
In the 13 days since the Dallas shooting, gunmen have shot 18 police officers, killing five.
SHOT ON DUTY
Officer fatalities by gunfire is up nearly 78 percent from 2015, year to date, according to analysis of Officer Down Memorial Page statistics.
The tougher statistic to find: How many officers are shot on the job and survive? Also, there’s no national database of officers who’ve been shot at, like the Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies who took cover in April when a suspect in San Juan Capistrano opened fire with an automatic weapon.
Law Enforcement & Supporters for Media Accountability (LESMA), a small organization that includes retired law enforcement personnel, last year started tracking shootings through extensive searches of media coverage.
BehindTheBadgeOC.com audited the report and found 121 officers who were shot in 2015 and 164 that have been shot so far in 2016.
Investigating calls from the public, serving warrants and making routine car stops are among the most dangerous circumstances for police, an analysis of media reports shows.
Twenty-nine officers were shot responding to calls for service, including reports of burglary, trespassing, disturbances and hit-and-run accidents.
Sixteen officers were shot in police pursuits and 16 were shot serving warrants. Seventeen officers were shot during a routine car stop.
Ten officers were shot in an ambush, and 10 were victims of targeted attacks on police officers.
The February shooting of the SAPD detective is at least one incident that didn’t make LESMA’s list.
TRACKING THE DATA
Dealing with people harboring weapons is a reality of the job for every police officer, and they know getting shot is a real possibility.
The FBI tracks assaults on officers where officers are injured, including being shot, but they acknowledge the data includes caveats that make it difficult to get a clear picture of how many officers take a bullet on the job.
First, the agency relies on the voluntary reporting of nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation to develop its database. For its 2014 “Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted” report – the most recent – nearly 12,000 agencies reported.
That year, there were 183 instances in which an officer suffered an injury while assaulted with a firearm, but there’s a disclaimer: To fall into this category, a suspect has to use a gun to threaten an officer, but the officer’s injury doesn’t have to come from a bullet.
If a suspect points a gun at an officer, then decides instead to tackle that officer, and the officer breaks a bone, that still gets filed by the FBI as an assault on an officer with a firearm.
The number of officers injured as a result of an assault with firearms was down in 2014 from the previous year. The FBI reported 245 in 2013, 105 in 2012 and 201 in 2011.
If this year’s trend continues, more than 300 officers will be hit by gunfire — more than any year in the decade’s worth of information available in the FBI report.
Shootings comprise only a small fraction of how officers get injured – and police leaders are concerned about an evolving anti-police culture that paints officers as potential targets.
The FBI found in 2014 that 48,315 officers were assaulted on the job – with 28.3 percent of those suffering an injury. Fists, bats and knives are among the weapons assailants have used to attack officers.
“These injuries, which usually result from the actions of suspects, are very real and need to be taken seriously,” Corney said. “The community tends to view attacks on officers as though it’s part of their job. They don’t get a lot of media attention. It’s important for people to understand that it’s a dangerous job.”
Micayla Chade and Joe Vargas contributed to this report