Justice Department: Ambushes account for more officer deaths

Story highlights

  • Newly released stats show that 36 police officers have been killed in more than 200 ambushes on law enforcement in the last decade
  • According to the report, 70% of officers attacked in ambushes were attacked spontaneously

Washington (CNN)Newly released stats show that 36 police officers have been killed in more than 200 ambushes on law enforcement in the last decade, according to a new Justice Department report.

While the number of deadly ambushes on police has not risen since the 1990's, they are accounting for an increasing proportion of officer deaths in recent years.
The report, released by the Justice Department's office of Community Oriented Policing Services, attempts for the first time in decades to comprehensively analyze ambushes on law enforcement. It looks at a list of factors, ranging from the amount of training the officer attacked has or their physical appearance to the attacker's criminal history or socioeconomic status.
    Though the report notes that commonalities in these incidents should not be interpreted as causes, it does illustrate that more than 60% of ambushes target single-officer patrol vehicles. And 70% of officers attacked in ambushes were attacked spontaneously where "the assailants made the decision at the time of the officers' approach, or at some point during their interaction, when the officers would not expect an attack."
    For example, a police officer who is physically smaller than a majority of their colleagues does not put them at greater risk for an ambush or assault. Also, although "personal characteristics do not factor," officer assailants tend to be younger than the police they ambush and disproportionately non-white, male and unemployed, according to the study.
    An ambush is defined, in this study, as a sudden attack without provocation in an otherwise nonviolent encounter that generally last less than 10 minutes. The report showed that in the past 25 years, like violent crime, there has been a decrease in reported ambush attacks against law enforcement officers.
    "As part of our work to support these brave men and women, the Department of Justice is committed to extensive efforts aimed at preventing violent action against the police," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. "This report will serve as a critical base of knowledge as we work to defend our law enforcement and ensure our officers' safety."