Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Deadliest Januaries in Law Enforcement History

In all respects, the first few weeks of 2011 were looking "good" for law enforcement. Following an increasingly dangerous 2010, line of duty deaths were actually tracking at a lower rate than in January 2010. Then the last five days happened.

Det. Amanda Haworth
Det. Roger Castillo
On January 20, 2011, Detective Roger Castillo and Detective Haworth were fatally shot and a third detective was wounded while assigned to a federal task force in Miami, Florida. Everyone thought it couldn't get any worse.

On Sunday, January 23, all hell broke loose. Two Kitsap County, Washington, deputies were shot and wounded in a WalMart parking lot. Four Detroit police officers were wounded when a man armed with a shotgun stormed a precinct station house. An Indianapolis Metro police officer is now fighting for his life after being shot in the head twice during a traffic stop, and a Lincoln City, Oregon, police officer was shot and wounded following a traffic stop on a coastal highway Sunday night.

As law enforcement nationwide was trying to understand what had occurred over the weekend they learned that the assault on our nation's protectors wasn't over. At about 7:00 am on Monday, January 24, two more of Florida's bravest police officers - Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Sergeant Tom Baitinger - were slain in the line of duty, and a Deputy United States Marshal was wounded, while serving warrant in St. Petersburg.

What had started as a promising year, quickly turned into anything but. As of today, January 2011 has the  exact number of deaths as of the same time last year. At this rate, we're pacing to be above 160 deaths for the year and that is completely unacceptable. I am calling on all officers - from rookies to chiefs - to band together in what my good friend Dave Smith has coined the "conspiracy of safety."

I encourage everyone to read Dave's article on law enforcement's newest conspiracy, but I'll take the liberty to paraphrase it here in Dave's own words:
"Not today! ... By making our personal safety an immediate issue it is no longer some abstract, some statistic, or some trite saying; it is a manageable concrete situation we can pay attention to right now!"
As bad as January 2011 has been so far, it has been much, much worse in the past. The deadliest January on record was January 1931 when 22 officers were shot and killed (there were 33 total deaths that month). In fact, the most recent year that made the Deadliest Januaries by Gunfire was 1996 with 11. Let's keep it that way.

Deadliest Januaries by Gunfire:
1931: 22
1921: 21
1973: 20
1930: 19
1922: 18
1970: 18
1928: 17
1932: 17
1924: 16
1908: 13
1915: 13
1920: 13
1935: 13
1938: 13
1972: 13
1927: 12
1933: 12
1975: 12
1981: 12
1986: 12
1987: 12
1909: 11
1919: 11
1947: 11
1947: 11
1971: 11
1989: 11
1991: 11
1996: 11

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday ODMP!

A few things happened in late '95 and early '96 that culminated in the creation of the ODMP in January of 1996. I was a freshman at James Madison University, biding my time until I turned 21 so I could return home to Fairfax City, Virginia, and fulfill my dream of becoming a police officer there. I had been an Explorer for the previous four years. My Explorer advisors - then-Sergeant Scott Dulaney and the late Officer Bill Thomas - urged me to go to college and get a job that paid more. I begrudgingly followed their advice and can't thank them enough for it because it allowed me to create the ODMP.

Officer Lauretha Vaird
While I was at home for the Christmas break that year I heard about the release of Terrence Johnson, a man who murdered two Prince George's County, Maryland, police officers in cold blood in 1978. The media's portrayal and glorification of this man sickened me to the core. Just a few days later, on January 2, 1996, Police Officer Lauretha Vaird became the the nation's first line of duty death of the year when she was gunned down while responding to a bank robbery in Philadelphia. In true media fashion, the Washington, DC, news gave her murder hardly a mention.

The Internet was in its infancy and I didn't know how to do much, but I sat down at a computer with thoughts of injustice swirling in my mind. How could the media glorify a double cop killer while barely even mentioning the life and death of a true heroine who was taken from us too early? That night I started typing out the first few lines of code that became the ODMP. A few days later four officers who had already been slain in the line of duty were already added to the site.

Patrolman Bryant Peney
One of these officers was Patrolman Bryant Peney, who was shot and killed on January 6, 1996. Within days of publishing Patrolman Peney's name his twin brother (who served on the same department) found the meager website and emailed me, thanking me for remembering his brother.

You see, up until receiving that email from Todd Peney this was just a website. I had never known any officers who had been killed in the line of duty and I didn't understand the impact the simple act of posting a name on a website would have on a fallen officer's friends and family. On that day the little website I created in my freshman-year dorm room became a bona fide memorial.

Fast forward to today. Between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2010, the ODMP received 2.8 million visitors, making it one of the most visited law enforcement websites ever!

After 15 years of running the ODMP as an all-volunteer organization, I am honored to announce that the organization received a federal grant that has allowed us to hire staff and continue our work in honoring America's fallen heroes. We now have two full time employees and have moved into new office space in Fairfax, Virginia, as we embark on a mission for a new and improved ODMP in 2011.

However, we still need your support. I'm personally asking all regular visitors of the ODMP to recognize our 15 years of service by making a $15 donation today so that we can ensure we are always able to continue providing memorials and details on line of duty deaths as they happen.

Be safe and God bless!

Chris Cosgriff
Executive Director

PS- For those of you in the DC-metro area please feel free to visit the ODMP office during normal business hours. We're located at 3950 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 12, Fairfax, VA, 22030.