On Jan. 7, police officers in Farmington, N.M., responded to reports of a drunk driver. At a traffic stop, the suspect produced a gun and fired three shots, one of which hit officer Joseph Barreto. "It could have been so much worse," Police Chief Steve Hebbe told ABC News. It was the first time there'd been an officer-involved shooting in the community, he said. The gunman escaped from jail on Dec. 27 and had been on the run before being caught in Phoenix two weeks after the shooting.
Barreto was one of 24 police officers shot in January, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Three died; a fourth was killed during an attempted robbery.
In January of the last two years, 17 police officers were shot.
The number of officers killed by a gun increased 36 percent last year from 2020, with 62 deaths..
"As crime rates continue to rise, the violence directed at law enforcement officers is skyrocketing," said president Patrick Yoes of the Fraternal Order of Police." I have worked in law enforcement for 36 years, and the current level of violence targeted at our law enforcement officers is the worst I have ever seen."
Laura Cooper of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the shootings represent a "complete disregard for law enforcement, the job they do and the sanctity of life."
Norwood, Ma., Police Chief Bill Brooks said that the uptick in shootings has to do with "anti-police sentiment which may embolden some criminals." "They see that one way to avoid going into police custody is to shoot it out with police," said Brooks.
Last year, 458 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty -- up 55 percent from 2020, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.
The vast majority of deaths -- 301 -- were due to COVID-19.