IACP’s Ambush Project

In 2012, there were 6 law enforcement deaths due to ambushes. According to the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) data that same year felonious assaults accounted for over half of all law enforcement deaths. While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has not yet released the data for 2013, we know that a number of officers that year were the victims of ambush attacks.

In response to a growing concern about police ambushes, as well as the lack of basic research in the field, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and CNA partnered on an important initiative to provide some insight into the nature and frequency of ambushes. The Ambush Fact Sheet provides a comprehensive look at the nature of ambush attacks perpetrated against law enforcement officers in the United States since 1990. It defines classifications of ambush attacks, incident trends, overviews of agency, victim, and perpetrator data, weapons used in ambushes, and survivability and clearance rates.

According to the report, an ambush is defined by four components: an element of surprise, concealment of the assailant, suddenness of the attack, and a lack of provocation; ambushes can be classified as either premeditated or spontaneous.
Some highlights from the document include:

  • Officers murdered in the line of duty are increasingly likely to have been ambushed.
  • Data from 1990-2012 revealed that 32% of ambushes were classified as entrapment, while 68% were considered spontaneous.
  • The average ambushed officer is a 38-year-old male with 11 years of service.
  • Of the officers involved in an ambush attack, those who were wearing body armor had a 53% survival rate, compared to a 30% survival rate for those who were not wearing body armor.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 assailants have had some sort of prior relationship with the officer in the incident, including personal interactions and previous arrests.
  • 82% of officers ambushed were alone at the time of the incident.
  • Since 1990, 36% of ambushes have involved a firearm, while 35% involved only the assailant’s hands as weapons.

These findings are the first step towards producing future policy guidelines and improved training for preventing ambush attacks against law enforcement officers. For more information on ambushes and to read the full fact sheet visit: http://www.iacp.org/Ambush-Project.

It is the IACP’s position that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable, and the IACP Center for Officer Safety and Wellness strives to improve awareness on all aspects of officer safety. To learn more and to share best practices pertaining to officer safety and wellness please visit http://www.iacp.org/CenterforOfficerSafetyandWellness or contact the Center staff at officersafety@theiacp.org.

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