Assaults on police in L.A., U.S. up in 2020 amid civil unrest

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A U.S. Capitol Police officer stands at the door of the Capitol Rotunda near where the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick will lie in honor Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Washington. Sicknick died after defending the Capitol on Jan. 6 against the mob that stormed the building and interrupted the electoral count after then-President Donald Trump urged supporters on the National Mall to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
A U.S. Capitol police officer stands at the door of the Capitol Rotunda near where the late Officer Brian Sicknick was laid in honor in February. (Salwan Georges / Washington Post)

During a year of global civil unrest, assaults on law enforcement officers increased nationwide, and Los Angeles reported the most attacks on police officers in the line of duty in the past decade, according to federal and state data.

FBI numbers released this month show there were 60,105 U.S. officers assaulted in 2020, with about 31% reporting some kind of injuries — a 7.2% increase from 2019. And more than half that increase came from confrontations with protesters.

In Los Angeles, state justice department records show LAPD officers were assaulted 1,172 times, up from 864 attacks the year before. Of those 2020 incidents, nearly 58% were inflicted by a person, about 31% with a dangerous object and nearly 9% with a firearm, state justice records show. Only a handful of LAPD officers had documented injuries, state data show.

Those increases were mirrored across Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties as well, with assaults on police officers climbing significantly in 2020, according to the California Department of Justice records.

But the numbers are an anomaly, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said, citing the widespread discord following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May. Street protests surged across the country and sometimes took violent turns, including in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, Moore said during a police commission meeting there have been 642 assaults on officers so far this year, a 19% decrease from the 793 attacks on officers reported at this point last year.

A better comparison, Moore said, would be to look at the same span during 2019, when there were 597 assaults on officers reported. This year's total is a nearly 8% increase from 2019, which Moore said is also significant.

The chief noted that one LAPD officer was attacked Friday night in the Harbor area when a man accused of driving a stolen car intentionally rammed into a patrol vehicle. The officer's left leg was pinned, and he suffered a laceration and bruising, Moore said. The driver was later arrested and booked on suspicion of attempted murder of an officer.

Regardless of the reasons for 2020's violence against law enforcement officers, it is being repeated in 2021 on a national scale, with deadly results. The number of officers killed by violence in the line of duty has reached its highest rate in five years, FBI data show.

“What we’re seeing this year is an alarming uptick in violence against law enforcement, and it’s something that deserves way more attention than it’s getting,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during National Police Week earlier this month. “We are looking at now 59 officers or agents murdered in the line of duty this year. That’s an over 50% increase from [the same time] last year."

From Jan. 1 through Oct. 12, 59 officers died as a result of felonious acts, up from 39 during the same span last year, according to FBI data. Accidental deaths, such as those caused by car crashes, were at 46 so far this year, up from 37 in 2020.

In California, six officers have been shot dead in 2021, and two more have died in vehicular assaults.

The increased police killings coincide with an overall spike in the number of homicides nationwide. Last year saw the largest single-year increase ever recorded in homicides since the FBI began collecting numbers in the 1960s, with a nearly 30% increase. And that trend is continuing this year, federal data show.

Comparatively speaking, though, the increase in assault injuries to police officers saw only a slight increase in 2020, with the rate ticking up from 3.6 assaults per 100 officers in 2019 to 3.7 last year. Still, those rates are a shadow of the high-crime 1990s, when police documented more than 13 assaults per 100 officers nationwide.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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