While not the most dangerous job in the world, few other professions put its workers so directly in the way of danger to protect others. While each day brings new dangers, police officers face a few common threats on a regular basis.
According to the book "Encyclopedia of Police Science," the decade leading up to 2003 saw more than 550,000 reported assaults on United States police officers. Assaults can take place any time an officer comes into contact with a suspect, including arrests, traffic stops and domestic calls. About 80 percent of reported assaults were conducted by unarmed individuals, according to the book.
A police officer is statistically more likely to be killed in an accident then killed by a suspect. "An Introduction to Policing" reports that during the 10 years proceeding 2007, more than 750 United States police officers were killed in accidents, most notably automobile accidents, and a large amount of those occurred during routine driving, according to a February 2005 article in The New York Times. The second highest number of fatal accidents involved an officer on foot being struck by a vehicle. The elevated danger of accidents involving automobiles is a direct result of the number of hours an officer spends either in their own vehicle or are situated on foot near moving traffic, such as during a traffic stop.
While the slaying of a police officer is not the statistically highest cause of fatalities, it is an ever-present danger. Thirty percent of police officers killed in the line of duty were slain while attempting to make an arrest. The most dangerous type of arrest was during a robbery, followed by a drug-related arrest. A further 16 percent lost their lives during other common police duties including traffic stops, domestic disturbance calls and investigating suspicious persons.
Most police departments continually work to make the jobs of their officers safer by providing better training and equipment. Officers are trained to not rush blindly into a dangerous situation and to make strategic use of cover and their backup. Many departments also require the use of body armor during active duty. While not bullet-proof, the armor does help to limit the danger to an officer during an armed conflict.
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