MAY 18, 2023

Guest Shot: “Personal Weapons” Fatalities

Today’s feature is from a long-time instructor- new contributor, John Hearne

On May 9, 2023, the FBI released its preliminary Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKAA) data for 2022. This annual release of data typically generates a few news stories, most frequently highlighting changes in the overall number of officers murdered in the last year. This year, expect to hear that felonious deaths of officers are down by 18%. While the numbers fluctuate year to year, the causes of death have remained fairly constant, until this year. The unprecedented change in the 2022 data seems to confirm growing fears among longer serving officers and has scary implications for the armed citizen.

The LEOKAA reports track the number of officers murdered by so-called “personal weapons.” “Personal weapons” are defined as hands, feet, fists, or teeth. If an officer is murdered with “personal weapons” they are beaten to death by an “unarmed person.” For years, very few officers were murdered with personal weapons. For the time period between 2003-2020, only six officers or an average of 0.33 per year were murdered with “personal weapons.” In the highest single year, 2012, only 4.1% of officers were murdered with personal weapons.

Starting in 2021, the number of murders with personal weapons increased significantly from an average of less than 1% to 5.5%. In 2022, the increase is even more dramatic. In 2022, 13.6% of officers were murdered with personal weapons. If we exclude 2021, the likely start of the trend, this is a 2100% increase in such deaths. If there was a 2100% increase in the use of so-called “assault weapons” this would be headline-worthy news.

When someone promises you violence by word or deed, believe them….

Besides being utterly shocking as a trend, we need to ask what this means. While the exact circumstances of the deaths are not yet available, it seems to indicate a policing community that has utterly caved into societal pressure to solve nonexistent problems. Ever since 2014, the shootings of “unarmed criminals” have been a major topic. While the actual evidence shows that any use of force by police is rare, let alone deadly force, and even more rare, the use of deadly force against an “unarmed” person, the media and social justice activists have repeated this lie until it is now accepted as truth. The myth that it is impossible for unarmed suspects to pose a deadly threat is now part of that same “truth.” The police have tried to revise their tactics to minimize the risk of injury to suspects but the hard evidence from the last two years is that it isn’t working and it’s getting good people killed. To say it plainly, most policing reforms are demands that officers play Russian Roulette in tense, rapidly evolving situations and the police are now losing at extraordinary levels.

Those of us who have been in the policing profession for some time have noticed certain trends such as the difficulty of recruiting qualified candidates, the elimination of proactive policing, and the desire to increase standards for the use of force beyond those required by both statutory and case law. This dramatic increase in the murder of officers at the hands of “unarmed people” seems to be clear evidence that these trends are ill founded and/or not desirable. It seems inevitable that American police will confront and arrest even fewer criminals in the near future and that our criminal justice system will incarcerate fewer as well. If you’re paying attention, the need for basic awareness and the ability to deliver competent, pro-social violence* will be increasing.

It is an ugly truth but if the police cannot be trusted to protect themselves from criminals armed only with hands and feet, they cannot be trusted to protect you or your loved ones. This is just tragic reinforcement of the ugly reality that responsibility for your personal safety rests solely on your shoulders.

* “Lawful moral violence in the service of good; as opposed to anti-social violence.”

John Hearne is a currently serving law enforcement officer who started his career in 1992. He is an agency and academy instructor in several areas including firearms, use of force, and tactics. He has been a staff instructor for Tom Givens of Rangemaster since 2001 and has his own training company - Two Pillars Training.