FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) – There are new fears the Mike Brown shooting and the events that followed in Ferguson may be making it more dangerous to be a police officer.
Newly released FBI statistics show the number of police officers purposely killed in the line of duty jumped nearly 90% in 2014: 51 up from just 27 in 2013.
Experts told FOX 2 people needed to keep those numbers in perspective. Plus, there are still signs of heavy support for police.
The Ferguson City Council proclaimed this “Police Week” at Tuesday night’s meeting. The mayor thanked businesses for raising money to send 5 Ferguson officers to the nation’s capital for National Police Week observances this week.
UMSL criminologist and former Los Angeles police officer David Klinger said it was too early to attribute anything to a so-called “Ferguson Effect”.
“If you look at the statistics the answer is no at least in terms of fatalities,” he said.
The number of officers killed was actually much higher in 2011: 72. It was double that 30-40 years ago, Klinger said.
“My gut feeling tells me we could be on the precipice of something really rough, but it’s a big “could” I’m trained as a social scientist. When I was a cop I was trained to look at the evidence. The evidence doesn’t indicate yet that we have this crisis,” Klinger said.
He said was a key for people on all sides to put themselves in the shoes of those on the other.
“Go be a cop for a week or two and you will take on an awful lot of the traits of a police officer,” he said.
Likewise, police officers are just plain citizens when not on duty – the vast majority of their lives, he said.
“Police officers need to remember that. And if cops can remember that and citizens can try to figure out how to access what it’s like to be a police officer, then maybe they’ll think differently,” Klinger said.
Maryland Heights Detective Sergeant Joe Eagan survived a line of duty shooting in 2010.
“Right now it’s not very popular to be a cop – in the media,” he said. “My concern is for the next generation. If I was 22-years-old right now and I had considered a career in law enforcement, would I still be interested?”
Still, he pointed to the continued outpouring of support for officers that seemed to be growing in the wake of the Mike Brown shooting.
“Since the events of August, I’ve had no less than 4 breakfasts of mine bought, where I go to get my check for my breakfast or coffee and random places and people I’ve never met before and the waitress says, ‘oh you’ve been taken care of’,” he said. “Is this (recent spike in police deaths) the wave of the future or is this just a mathematical correction, which is horrible term to use when you’re talking about police officers lives? My hope is that this is just a fluke.”
Eagan said people are still donating to organizations that come to the aid of fallen and injured officers in the St. Louis area.
He suggested Backstoppers, which aids the families of those killed in the line of duty; along with Shield of Hope and Responder Rescue, which aid officers still living but facing hardships.