2011 was a grim year for police officers, both locally and nationwide.
Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy J.D. Paugh and Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson are numbered among the 68 federal, state and local officers killed by gunfire in 2011, the first time in 14 years that firearms killed more officers than traffic accidents, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The number of firearms deaths jumped 15 percent from 2010, when 59 officers were killed.
So far this year, 173 officers across the nation have died in the line of duty – a 13 percent increase from 2010, according to the nonprofit group, which tracks police deaths. The group’s data show that 64 of those officers died in traffic accidents, down from the 71 killed in 2010.
Craig Floyd, the group’s chairman, told The Associated Press he blamed the rise on budget cuts to public safety departments. He cited surveys by police groups that showed many cut back on training and delay upgrading equipment, and referenced a Department of Justice report issued in October that said an estimated 10,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies have been laid off within the past year.
Although those might be factors with some departments, layoffs and lack of training are not problems for Aiken officers, said Aiken Public Safety Lt. David Turno.
Rather, Turno said, he and other officers are seeing an increasing lack of respect for those who wear a badge.
“I do see that in the younger population out there. It’s like they just don’t care,” Turno said.
Richardson, 33, was killed Dec. 20 during a shootout at a traffic stop on Brandt Court in Aiken. Police have obtained murder warrants against Stephon M. Carter, 19, in that incident. Paugh, 47, was shot to death Oct. 23 by a Christopher Hodges, a Tennessee National Guardsman stationed at Fort Gordon. Hodges, 26, killed himself after shooting Paugh.
Police deaths were spread across 41 states and Puerto Rico. The largest number of fatalities was reported in Florida, where 14 officers were killed. Georgia had 10 fatalities and South Carolina had four.
Associated Press reports were used in this article.