'Attacked Because of the Uniform': Violence Against Police Officers Surges as Gun Violence Hits All-Time High
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The FBI and law enforcement agencies are working to stop surging violence against police officers as other violent crimes run rampant nationwide.
"Police officers are being attacked simply because of the uniform they wear," said Sgt. Tre Pennie, retired Dallas police sergeant and president of the National Fallen Officer Foundation.
Last year, 73 police officers were killed on the job. That's a 59 percent jump in officer-related deaths over the previous year.
Sgt. Pennie says violence aimed at police is unlike anything he's seen before.
"We are living in a different age where our national security interests have to be considered," Pennie said.
So why the increase?
FBI Director Christopher Wray says some of it's tied to an increase in violent crimes as a whole. In 2020, murder jumped 29 percent in the U.S. with nearly 5,000 more people killed than in 2019.
Possible reasons include more juveniles committing violent crimes, increased gun trafficking, and an alarming number of some of the worst criminals getting back on the streets.
"Last year, officers were being killed at a rate of almost one every five days," Wray noted.
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The FBI is working with task forces and local law enforcement nationwide to mitigate this violent surge, arresting close to 15,000 violent gang members last year.
Yet, gun violence is still at an all-time high.
Researchers for the New England Journal of Medicine found that gun violence increased during the COVID pandemic. There's no clear correlation. Still, some 45,000 firearm-related deaths took place in 2020.
Sgt. Pennie believes social media is a big part of the problem.
"I've been a proponent of regulating social media because of online radicalism," he said. "Back in 2016, the ambush shooting in Dallas, TX left five officers killed, two of them were really good friends of mine. It would not have occurred that way had it not been for the social media online radicalization."
Pennie continued, "These platforms are being used to incite violence across the country – against police officers and you know, we have a lot of people, especially on the political spectrum, using this 'free speech narrative.'"
In the worst cases, Sgt. Pennie believes some opinions lead to tragedy – most recently in a Buffalo grocery store – where the shooter targeted black people, killing 10 and injuring three others.
National security experts believe the gunman was motivated by the racist ideology he found online.
Pennie filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google in connection with the 2016 Dallas shooting. The courts let them go.
But it's not stopping law enforcement from finding solutions to serve and protect the men and women who have sworn to do the same.
"We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to whomever they lead, no matter who likes it," Wray said.
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