10/12/07 6:50:53 AM — Odessa, TX
— Copshootings: Before this year, the only police officers killed in the line of duty in Odessa, Texas, were two unfortunate victims in local motorcycle accidents dating to the late 1980s. Three weeks ago, all of that changed when a gunman opened fire on Arlie James, Scott Gardner and Abel Marquez as the officers responded to a domestic dispute. James and Gardner were pronounced dead at the scene, while Marquez died four days later as part of an unfathomable act of violence that plunged the West Texas oil town into a period of mourning that continues to linger. Beyond Odessa, however, the deaths are now part of a mounting number of fatal police shootings across the country that already have surpassed the national total in all of 2006, according to annual counts maintained by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Earlier this year, the memorial fund reported that fatal officer shootings were at their highest mid-year level in three decades. Since then, the killing has only continued. The 57% increase in fatal shootings so far this year represents a reversal of sorts from 2006 when the overall number of officer fatalities, including those linked to traffic accidents, was the lowest in six years. But law enforcement officials say the increasing number of attacks on cops represents a troubling aspect of rising violence in the United States where murder increased for the second consecutive year in 2006. In some departments, the threat is changing the way they do business. Earlier this month, the Miami Police Department announced it would provide military-style assault weapons to officers who wanted them, as long as they completed required training. ?I can?t believe it has come to this,?? Miami police Chief John Timoney says. The weapons are needed, the chief says, because the criminals have armed themselves with similar high-powered weapons and have demonstrated that they are not afraid to use them. ?In some robberies, we?re seeing people being hunted down,?? the chief says. Congress also is weighing in, with some Democrats citing the attacks on police and the recent rise in violent crime as evidence that the Bush administration has failed to adequately support local law enforcement. ?The federal government has taken its focus off street crime since 9/11, asking law enforcement to do more with less,?? Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said. ?Fewer police on the street preventing crime and protecting communities means more crime ? it’s as simple that.? Nearly three weeks after the shootings in Odessa, the losses remain intensely personal. ?The department is devastated,?? says Deputy Chief Don Orren. ?We?re still in a state of shock. I can?t hardly talk about it.??
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