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Ambush Attacks Against Law Enforcement: Safety and Prevention Strategies

NCJ Number
Terry Nichols
Date Published
8 pages
This article presents strategies for preventing ambush attacks on law enforcement officers, as well as how to keep them safe if attacked.
In May 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported the 2016 preliminary statistics for Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty. The data indicate that 66 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty, and 17 of these officers were killed in ambush attacks. Such attacks were also responsible for multiple serious injuries to officers and others. In a 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, an ambush is defined as a "planned surprise attack on a human target." The current article expands this definition specifically for ambushes against law enforcement. First, an ambush is a premeditated attack that involves planning and a calculated execution of the plan. Second, an ambush could be a surprise or spontaneous attack in reaction to an event, such as resisting arrest, evading an arrest, or interaction with officers or some other triggering event. The current article focuses on the first or "planned attack" scenario. Circumstances are presented to show some high-profile ambush attacks on law enforcement officers that involved specific features of ambush attacks. The COPS Office published a study in 2015 that focused on the identification of several factors in and the dynamics of ambushes, based on data from ambushes on 230 police officers. From this study and other sources, the current article outlines some key points, along with additional mitigation strategies, safety tools, and equipment. A list of 7 additional resources is provided.