Louisiana is once more at the top of a bad list, with five on-duty officers shot and killed this year. And it’s not even September.
The death of Senior Trooper Stephen Vincent, based in southwest Louisiana for Louisiana State Police, is the latest in a melancholy list. He leaves a widow and a 9-year-old son.
This year, in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans, four other officers have died. The occasions include not only the traffic stop that resulted in gunfire against Vincent on a rural road. The officers killed this year have included a Housing Authority policeman in the Crescent City and a U.S. marshal, the latter on detached duty in Louisiana from his home in Mississippi.
It’s a long list for a small state. Nationally, there’s not a big surge in killings of officers, despite rising tension in some minority communities after the Ferguson, Missouri, disputes over the police shooting of Michael Brown. “Right now there’s nothing indicative of why Louisiana has been having such a bad year,” said Chris Cosgriff, a Virginia-based police officer and director of Officer Down Memorial Page, which gathers detailed information on fallen officers.
Preliminary information on Cosgriff’s site shows 24 gun deaths of officers in the U.S. this year, and 47 last year. The FBI, which has not yet released recent statistics on “felonious killings” of officers, cited 27 such deaths in 2013 nationally, and 49 in 2012.
Five, in other words, is a lot in a single state.
“The fact is, we’re going to a lot more police funerals this year,” said Mike Anderson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans division, which oversees the entire state.
One of those recent funerals was in St. Amant, the hometown of Shreveport officer Thomas Lavalley, killed in what started as a routine house call.
The imminence of risk is one reason that the role of police officer, in whatever jurisdiction, carries with it great stress.
But these terrible incidents also give the community a chance to remind officers that we are greatly appreciative of the role of law enforcement in our cities, the state and the nation.
We owe a debt greater than is easily repaid, but respect and appreciation are part of what officers are owed in Louisiana. Particularly in such a bad year.