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Rash of Cop Killings, Threatening Graffiti Pose Worry for Police Nationwide

Diana Robinson-cc
Tearful officer stands at attention at New York City police ceremony
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Fatalities up 10% this year, advocacy group reports

People around Houston will be seeing a new bracelet on the wrists of many residents soon. The Houston Police union ordered 10,000 bracelets with the slogan “Pray for Police.”

Sadly, it may be a trend that catches on in other parts of the country.

The move comes in the wake of a rash of police killings nationwide and, perhaps equally disturbing, at least four instances around Houston of graffiti encouraging people to shoot officers. ABC 13 discovered four places where a drawing of a pistol pointed at a policeman’s head.

A website dedicated to police officers killed in the line of duty, Officer Down Memorial Page, reported Wednesday that police fatalities nationwide are up 10% so far this year. In just the past week:

  • Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran with four sons, died after an encounter with three males Tuesday morning in Fox Lake, Ill. The town of 10,500 people is about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Gliniewicz, 52, was well known as a devoted family man and dedicated to police work. Authorities in northern Illinois were continuing a manhunt for three suspects.
  • In Abilene, Texas, police were treating the death of an off-duty officer as a homicide. Officer Don Allen was found dead Monday inside his home in Clyde. Investigators haven’t released details about the manner of death, but have described it as “clearly suspicious,” CNN reported.
  • On Friday, Darren H. Goforth, a deputy in Texas, was shot and killed while refueling his cruiser near Houston.
  • Last week, a Louisiana state trooper was fatally shot while conducting a traffic stop, and a police officer in Sunset, La., was killed en route to a stabbing scene.

The Los Angeles Times said that although dozens of police officers are slain on duty in any given year, active and retired police officers across the country said the recent bloodshed feels different.

As the nation has been roiled by strong currents of distrust and fear of police that surfaced after last year’s killing of Michael Brown by a cop in Ferguson, Mo., an ugly byproduct of the turmoil has been a newfound willingness to do harm to those in uniform, many police officers say.

The killer of two New York City police officers, who were ambushed in their patrol car in December, had boasted on social media that he planned to kill cops in retaliation for the deaths of Brown and Eric Garner, who died during an arrest by officers in Staten Island, N.Y.

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman told reporters that the investigation into Officer Goforth’s killing so far has not uncovered any connection between the slain officer, who was white, and the suspect, Shannon J. Miles, who is black. He said it appeared he was targeted only because he was a law enforcement officer.

Hickman referred to a “dangerous national rhetoric that is out there today,” saying it “has gotten out of control.”

That may be manifesting itself now in the form of threatening graffiti, but social media also provides an avenue to whip up winds of hatred, as the LA Times points out:

Numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story, police said. Whether or not violence toward police is up this year, officers said attacks on law enforcement are playing out in a new atmosphere of amplified animosity, in which cops are routinely vilified — fairly or not — by a public on Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites.

The atmosphere surrounding recent incidents of police violence “is more dangerous,” said Deon Joseph, a Los Angeles police officer who has spent 17 years working on the city’s skid row. Social media now have “the capability of influencing millions with truth and embellished versions of it with the click of a button,” he said, and “more people want to hear the sensationalized version than the truth.”

And there is the threat of creeping Islamic militancy in the West. In June, a Boston area jihadist reportedly told an associate that he changed his plan from decapitating blogger Pamela Geller to targeting “the boys in blue,” an apparent reference to police.