WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (UPI) — At least 19 of 50 U.S. police officers fatally shot this year were victims of ambush-style attacks or were surprised by suspects with guns, a review shows.
USA Today said it based its review on case summaries and interviews with police officials.
The newspaper said the 50 fatal shootings of officers represented a 32 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
The latest statistics have prompted some law enforcement and U.S. Justice Department officials to provide more training or protection for officers.
USA Today noted the increase in fatal shootings of officers comes amid a steady decrease in violent crime in much of the country.
“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend,” Attorney General Eric Holder told law enforcement officials this month in Washington. “Too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them.”
Holder has begun a review of officer safety and says more research is needed to help officers survive violence, including ambush-style attacks.
Robert Kaminski, a University of South Carolina criminologist who studies attacks on police officers, said in several cases officers had been shot in the head, and he and others suggest shooters aimed at the officers’ heads to avoid protective body armor.
“There is an increasing trend in the number of fatalities involving ambush,” Kaminski said. “I think it is a big concern.”
Ambush-style killings of police have generally been on the increase since 1994, when they comprised 10 percent of killings of officers, USA Today said. The most recent FBI statistics show ambush-style killings totaled 31 percent of fatal shootings of officers in 2009.