(WTVM) - There are a lot of debatable statistics when it comes to police officers and shootings, but there is one statistic that is a cold, hard fact.
More police officers die by gunfire while responding to domestic disputes than any other form of on-duty fatalities, including traffic stops or high-speed crashes.
It used to be the other way around. It used to be that traffic stops or chases killed more officers.
Sadly, we now must add Auburn Police Officer William Buechner to the list of officers fatally gunned down while responding to a domestic call.
Officer Buechner’s death is completely and utterly tragic. But he died honorably, performing his sworn duty to restore the peace broken by domestic violence.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund carefully tracks deaths of on-duty officers.
In 2018, 52 police officers died from gunshots, a 13 percent increase from the prior year. In comparison, 50 officers died in traffic related fatalities.
This, of course, is no surprise to police who know very well just how dangerous domestic disputes can be.
Two other officers responding with Officer Buechner, Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott, were also shot, but luckily both survived.
Many new police techniques are being deployed to de-escalate domestic situations, but there are so many wild cards in these scenarios that an officer’s risk is always high.
Domestic disturbances rank at the top of the never-ending list of life’s problems we expect the police to solve for us.
But it should not be left to the police alone to address anti-social or violent behavior, which sometimes goes back decades; behavior that eventually leads to a desperate 911 call.
Family members aware of a potential abuser’s history or even aware of persistent household chaos, need to consider getting help for their loved ones before they need to call police.
There are so many local resources available: Georgia and Alabama each have Coalitions Against Domestic Violence.
They know how to tackle these complicated issues, with counseling help, emergency housing and more.
Being pro-active and intervening before violence breaks out is easier said than done.
Most of us are ill-equipped to deal with mental or social illness, or diseases like alcoholism and drug addiction that are often the root cause of domestic violence.
Thank goodness for brave officers like Auburn’s William Buechner who answered the call for help and paid the ultimate price.
In his honor, we ought to pause and think for a moment about ways we could take responsibility to defuse dangerous domestic situations, before having to call police.
It might help save the life of an officer responding to the next call.
Available Domestic Violence Resources:
24 Hour Hotline: 1-800-650-6522
24 Hour Hotline: 1-800-334-2836
These hotlines offer free help without judgement. From counseling services to rapid re-housing including battered women shelters, these two coalitions are the clearinghouse for a great deal of help dealing with or surviving domestic abuse.
The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley can help refer you to the right agency just by dialing 211.
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