USF Researcher Studies Violence Against Police

Several factors contribute to potential dangers faced by law enforcement officers.


By Barbara Melendez News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (July 12, 2010) – In the past 20 years, six Tampa police officers have died in violent, on-duty deaths, the most in any Florida community during that time span. No other Florida municipality lost more than two officers to violent deaths during that time.


And, in front of the Tampa Police Department’s headquarters, a memorial to officers who have died in the line of duty contains 31 names, including those of Dave Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, who were gunned down during a traffic stop June 29.


Lorie Fridell, who teaches in the University of South Florida Department of Criminology, discussed some of her research into violence against police officers while making a guest appearance on WUSF’s Florida Matters program. It will air Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m.   


Fridell points out that although felonious killings of police officers are rare – in absolute numbers – and declining around the United States, each casualty represents a profound loss for families, colleagues and society as a whole. Her research points to the increased use of protective vests as one of the factors in the downward trend, as well as a number of policy changes.


“The decline nationally in the felonious killings of police coincides with the increased use of protective vests, significant improvements in police training and tactics, and improved emergency medical care,” she said.   


In her article, “The impact of agency context, policies, and practices on violence against police,” in the Journal of Criminal Justice, Fridell reports that police officers are second to taxicab drivers when it comes to rates of homicides on the job. But overall, the highest violent victimization rate (encompassing both homicides and serious assaults) is for the occupation of law enforcement.  


“There are 10 risk factors for assaults in the workplace and seven of them apply to police officers,” Fridell said.


Those factors, taken from her article, are: contact with the public, having a mobile workplace, working with unstable or volatile people, working alone or in small numbers, working late at night or during early morning hours, working in high-crime areas and working in community-based settings.


The article describes a study that was funded by the Centers for Disease Control for which Fridell and her colleagues examined the extent to which factors related to both agency context (e.g., violent crime rate) and agency policies and practice (e.g., use of soft body armor, level of training, back up policies) impacted on the rate at which agencies experience officer violence.    The strongest relationship was expected:  agencies facing high levels of violent crime experience high levels of violence against police.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.