Number of police officers killed on job up 40 percent over last year

Last week’s Las Vegas shootings that left five dead, including two on-duty police officers, coincides with a nationwide increase of officers killed in 2014.

According to the Nationwide Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, 63 officers have died on the job this year compared to 45 at the same time last year -- a 40 percent increase.  Twenty-three of those deaths were due to firearm-related incidents, a 53 percent increase from the same time last year.

Previously, the overall number of officer fatalities had been on a steady decline since 2011.

“We’ve had some good years and right now we’re in a bad one,” said Richard Beary, vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “In general, we’re seeing more violence in society and that violence in society leads to violence against police officers.”

Beary, also the Chief of Police at the University of Central Florida, told that central Florida is seeing an unusually violent year with two officers killed since February.

“These officers had no idea somebody was going to kill cops and it’s a terrible situation and a tragedy,” Beary said.

He added IACP is in favor of stronger background checks on people trying to purchase a gun. However, he acknowledged it is nearly impossible to predict or prevent officers’ deaths since many of the shooters have no respect for life.

“One of the biggest challenges that all of us have is if somebody is set on taking their own life, they’re not afraid of taking another person's life,” Beary said. “I think that’s what we’re seeing in a lot of these cases, where they murder and then commit suicide.”

That is exactly what happened earlier this week in Las Vegas, when Jerad and Amanda Miller shot and killed two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers in cold blood while they were on their lunch break.

Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck were sitting in a pizza parlor when the shooters ambushed them. It was the first time in the department’s history that two officers were lost at the same time.

The community is still coming to terms with their tragic deaths.

This week, thousands attended a vigil to mourn the officers, who both leave behind wives and young children. The crowd gathered outside the restaurant where the officers were murdered.

“They are some amazing people and to know they were intentionally gunned down, I’m having a hard time grasping it,” said Amber Ayers of Las Vegas.