- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Two officers were shot on Monday in Baltimore, three law enforcement officials were shot last week in Chicago, and one officer was physically assaulted in May in Portland, Oregon.

“The demonization of police has made communities and law enforcement jobs less safe,” said Patrick Yoss, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). “This is a trend that is happening across this country.”

At least 150 officers nationwide have been shot this year as of June 30, 51 of whom were shot in ambush-style attacks which are up 91% compared to the same time last year, according to the FOP.

The attacks come as the police force in Baltimore is down 500 officers, the force in Chicago is down 100 sergeants and the force in Portland, Oregon, is down 100 officers, according to officials.

Police are also being targeted in smaller cities like Portland, Maine, where three officers were physically assaulted over the weekend.

Portland Police Chief Frank Clark says there has been a growing pattern of aggressive behavior geared toward police this month.

“I mean it’s disheartening, it’s demoralizing to our officers,” the chief told WGME-TV on Monday.

He said the three officers attacked on Sunday were in downtown Portland when they took a gun away from a 21-year-old man they had identified as a felon. The man then punched, kicked, scratched and spit on the officers. During the arrest, a crowd reportedly formed and more people began attacking them.

“Literally, not only verbally, but physically aggressing and assaulting them for doing nothing more than trying to protect the city,” Chief Clark reportedly said, adding that the brawl was “extremely concerning.”

The three officers were treated for minor injuries at an area hospital.

The incident came days after people shot fireworks, mortars and rockets at a group of local police over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, across the country in Portland, Oregon, an officer was punched and knocked to the ground by a protester in April. Less than two months later, the entire Portland Police Rapid Response Team (RRT) resigned following the indictment of an officer accused of using unlawful force against a different protester.

The team of about 50 police officers, detectives and sergeants had been on the front lines of protests over racial injustice and police brutality that have swept the nation since George Floyd’s death in May 2020. Floyd, a Black man, was killed in Minnesota police custody.

Protests in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere have turned tumultuous at times, resulting in violence and looting.

“The reality is our dedicated RRT members have had enough and were left with no other alternative but to resign from their voluntary positions,” Daryl Turner, executive director of the Portland Police Association, said in June. The officers are still part of the staff and are performing other duties.

Police departments across the country have reported mass exodus of police resigning, retiring or requesting a different assignment in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, which spurred activist calls to defund and abolish the police.

Police retirements are up 45% and resignations are up 18% this year compared to last, according to a June survey by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant who serves as a spokesperson for the National Police Association, told The Washington Times that police staffing shortages are due to a myriad of factors.

“It’s not only physical attacks on police officers that are impacting the profession, but the continuing calls to ‘de-fund,’ ‘reimagine’ or ‘abolish’ law enforcement that are leading to a mass exodus of police officers in the areas hardest hit by violent crime,” Ms. Smith said in an email Thursday.

Ms. Smith said police officers are “reaching a breaking point and we need public support.”

Charles Wilson, chairman of The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, told The Times “that no amount of anger and frustration about the ills of the system should be used as a cause or excuse to assault law enforcement officers who are simply doing their job.

“This type of insanity will not improve police-community relations; it will not bring about greater levels of police accountability; it will not advance the cause of social justice; it will not improve the status of life in the Black community; it will not bring an end to the shootings of Black men by the police,” Mr. Wilson said in an email Thursday.

He warned that if attacks on police continue, “officers will react more aggressively, and sometimes haphazardly when addressing the needs of the Black community.”

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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