AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The number of law enforcement officers that died in the line of duty rose by 12 percent in 2018 and the majority of them were killed by a firearm according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
That’s a change from 2017 when officer deaths actually decreased from the previous year.
“You have to be willing to go out and sacrifice your life if it's needed,” said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.
In 2018, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund counted 144 officers who laid down their lives while on the job.
Some recent deaths include California police officer Ronil Singh, who was gunned down the day after Christmas during a traffic stop, and Georgia police officer Michael smith, who passed away Friday, weeks after being shot in the face while responding to a disturbance.
“You're starting to see more violence, not only on citizen to citizen, but it's also steered towards police officers, and we're having more officers, it feels like we're having more officers, assaulted,” Casaday said.
“I think today we live in a very dangerous environment. There's a lot of tension everywhere. I don't think it's anti-police,” said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP.
In 2018, Texas tied with California, Florida and New York for having the most officers lose their lives. The majority of them by gunfire, 52, another increase since 2017.
“I don't think it has to do with guns, I think it has to do with we have more people in the street that are willing to pull that trigger,” said Casaday.
“I think there probably was more respect, based on society itself. I think today our culture, changing world value systems, I think there's more tension, absolutely,” Linder said.
Casaday said anytime there's an increase in violence directed at law enforcement, it can pose a challenge to departments needing new recruits.
“I talked to my counterparts in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston here in the last few weeks and they're all having the same problems we are, which is just getting people to walk through the door,” said Casaday.
At the same time, less officers on the force can lead to a more dangerous situation for those who do sign up. That begs the question, is it worth it?
“I would not change anything about my career, but I think I probably would have second thoughts if I was going into law enforcement as a 21 year old today,” Casaday said.
The deadliest year for law enforcement officers ever recorded was in 1930 when 307 laid down their lives in the line of duty. The number hasn't been under 100 since 1944.