In times of crisis, we depend on the resolve of law enforcement to run toward the danger. Recently, Tacoma lost one of their finest, Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez, 45, a 17-year veteran patrol officer, survived by his fiancée, children, and a large family. Killed in the line of duty, he responded to a domestic violence call and was shot.
His death is a reminder to me, and many others, about the daily sacrifices of these brave men and women and their families. It is difficult to imagine a world without them. Many, too many, pay with their lives to keep us safe.
Across our nation, we are seeing a shocking increase in the number of law enforcement officers killed in armed assaults. Each death is a loss, not just to our communities, but in the continued deterioration to the relationship between the police and the public.
In 2016, The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported a 78 percent spike in firearm-related officer fatalities. The organization typically releases their report mid-year, but extended the period due to the July attacks in Baton Rouge and Dallas. Their website keeps a growing tally of officers killed in the line of duty.
As of July 20, 2016, 67 federal, state and local law enforcement officers had been killed. Many of these were ambush-style killings. On the average, every 61 hours, somewhere in the United States, a law enforcement officer is murdered. It is crucial we reduce these violent interactions.
Even more alarming, according to a mid-year comparison (2015-2016) of violent crime by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which includes data from 51 law enforcement agencies from some of the largest U.S. cities, violent crime, and the number of homicides increased significantly. In Seattle, homicide, rape and aggravated assault cases are all on the rise.
The Washington State Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing, made up of community advocates, law enforcement and elected officials, recently submitted their report to the Legislature. During the upcoming 2017 session this information will be carefully reviewed as we examine any proposed reforms to the current statute.
We live in a complex environment where the critical relationship between police officers and the communities they serve can mean life or death. Whether a person is dangerous, or how dangerous, is rarely easy to determine. With heightened tension between police and the communities they serve it is vital we balance public protection with safety for our law enforcement officers.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Dick Muri is a member of the Washington House of Representatives representing the 28th legislative district.