(NewsNation Now) — Fatal attacks on U.S. police officers have dramatically increased in 2021 and the National Police Association has released a public service announcement seeking the public’s help.
A total of 59 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the first nine months of 2021, according to statistics compiled by the FBI.
This marks a 51% increase in the number of police officers killed when compared to the same period last year, the FBI said.
“That basically translates to every five days — more often than every five days in this country — an officer is murdered in the line of duty,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said of the increase. “And that’s totally unacceptable, and it’s a tragedy and it needs attention.”
Nationally, FBI stats report that 60,105 law enforcement officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2020 and more than 50,000 officers have been assaulted while on duty so far in 2021.
And of those assaulted in 2020, close to 3,000 officers were assaulted with firearms.
The statistics “are a stark reminder of the dangerous work done by law enforcement every day,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent Matthew DeSarno.
This trend came to light most recently when Kevin Nishita, a security guard with the San Francisco Bay Area NewsNation affiliate KRON news crew, was shot and killed in an attempted armed robbery on assignment covering recent smash-and-grab looting.
Nishita leaves behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren. He worked as an armed guard for Star Protection Agency and is a former police officer.
In response to the uptick of deadly violence against police offers, the National Police Association released a public service announcement on its social media channels and aired it on television. The announcement called on people to help if they see an officer being assaulted.
“A vast number of these attacks were filmed and uploaded to social media,” the PSA contends.
The police group promoted the PSA last week after a particularly egregious video surfaced of an NYPD officer pulled to the ground and choked by an attacker inside a Target store.
Footage shows the pair wrestling as shoppers looked on, some filming the incident.
“What can I do to help this officer?” the PSA asks of bystanders instead of filming the incident on mobile phones “in the pursuit of likes and attention.”
“Together, we can change this disturbing trend,” the PSA continues.
The message conveyed in the PSA is regarded as controversial by critics as the prospect of intervening in an active situation involving police is daunting and seen as dangerous to many.
The National Police Association is recommending witnesses to a police assault call 911 and then ask the officer if they need assistance.
“We’re not asking people to jump into the fray,” retired Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith said during an appearance on “Morning in America.”
Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of the Naperville Police Department in Illinois and spokesperson for the National Police Association.
“We are asking people to call 911, talk to dispatch,” Brantner Smith said. “And if they’re able to communicate with the officer, say, ‘Can I help you?'”
If you see an officer under attack, follow these steps in order to help, the PSA recommends:
- 1. Call 911 and give the officer’s exact location.
- 2. Ask the officer if you can assist. If the officer accepts, then do whatever you can do to safely help.
- 3. If the officer declines, then start filming and be a good witness.
“It’s time to stop filming and start helping,” the PSA concludes.
Some people would argue that filming these incidents is actually a way of holding police officers accountable and interactions would not be brought to light if there wasn’t video evidence.
Taking photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right and that includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
This PSA is ultimately meant to inspire people when they see an officer who is overwhelmed or being assaulted to call 911 for backup.
“Most people support the police,” Brantner Smith said. “But there’s always going to be that small percentage of people who want to continue with a false narrative that American law enforcement is somehow dangerous to our communities.”
“We are trying to fight the false narrative,” Brantner Smith said.