Every assault on a law enforcement officer holds the potential for a death. With an average of 542 assaults each year for the past three years in Richmond County, many officers experience the threat on a daily basis.
“This is one kind of job where you’re always in danger,” said Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew. “It’s one of the stressors of the job.”
According to FBI data released Oct. 28, 52,901 officers nationwide were assaulted on the job during 2012. The South remains the area with the highest number of assaults. Georgia reported about 1,300 from the 482 agencies, including Richmond and Columbia counties, who reported statistics to the FBI.
The South also remained the highest for felonious deaths of officers, with 22 out of the 48 total officers killed in the region. Georgia lost one.
With the deaths of three officers from Aiken Public Safety and Richmond County between Oct. 2011 and January 2012, local authorities are acutely aware any assault can turn deadly.
Nationwide, assaults on officers have been dropping gradually since peaking in 2007, with 61,257 assaults. Richmond County has also seen gradual declines over the past three years, while Columbia County has shown a slight increase.
“We consider our numbers very low,” said Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.
FBI statistics show the majority of assaults, about 30 percent, occurred after responding to a disturbance call.
Richmond County authorities hope that the recent addition of Tasers will continue the drop in assaults. The sheriff’s office hopes to supply all remaining officers with Tasers soon, but have not been able to because of budget restraints.
Chew said officers have found that the threat of the Taser is often enough to prevent aggressive behavior from suspects.
“It’s a tremendous asset,” Chew said. “They’re always looking at ways to keep officers out of danger.”