The two Des Moines-area police officers shot and killed in ambush attacks in November were among 21 killed in such attacks on law enforcement officers last year. Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin were shot and killed in separate incidents less than two miles apart while in their patrol cars early on November 2.
A preliminary report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says in 2016, 64 police officers were shot and killed on duty – a 56-percent increase over 2015. It calls the 21 ambush-related killings the highest total in more than two decades. NLEOMF President Craig Floyd says that increase has meant more pressure on some officers.
“They describe themselves as having their head on a swivel, constantly looking for that next threat,” he says. “You know, our officers want to be looking out for our protection, and not be as distracted as they are today worrying about their own safety and welfare.”
Floyd says the increase in ambush-style attacks reflects a mistrust of the police in some communities and what he termed a lack of respect for the law among some people.
This comes at a time when reports of some high-profile shootings by police officers around the country have led to increased tension between police officers and some communities. A growing number of police departments have been issuing body cameras to police officers to help improve transparency. In Iowa, Cedar Rapids is among the departments that began using the cameras in 2016. Des Moines police officers will begin wearing them this year.
“They will get to see exactly what’s happened in those interactions between police and the public,” Floyd says. “If there’s ever a question about misconduct or abuse of power, let’s go to the video. Let’s see exactly what that officer did.”
In addition to the two officers killed in the shooting attack in November, three officers died in traffic incidents. Des Moines Officers Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente-Morales were killed when their vehicle was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver on I-80 in Dallas County last March. In August, West Des Moines Sgt. Shawn Miller was killed when he collided with a vehicle that made a left-turn in front of him while he was riding his personal motorcycle in Dallas County after testifying in a criminal case.
The NLEOMF report says 53 officers were killed in traffic accidents on the job in 2016.