Recent killings of law enforcement officials are horrible, shocking news. But there's little reason to think that it marks a new trend, despite the media's shark-attack-style coverage.
The incidents have gotten a lot of attention, including at this site. Prosecutors killed in Texas. A prison official murdered in Colorado. A sheriff in West Virginia shot to death on his lunch break. And they've prompted the expected media response. The Washington Post: "Tension rises" after the recent attacks. Yahoo News: Recent killings "highlight a growing concern." In an interview with NPR, a former law enforcement officer seemed alarmed. Asked if attacks on the criminal justice community are on the rise in North America, Glenn McGovern responded:
They really are. In 2008, there was a huge spike, and that's really when the attacks in Mexico took off. And they were reaching close to 100 a year. And then it kind of dropped down a little bit. And so now you're starting to see a spike in the United States. And when I was going through the numbers last night, it is really unprecedented.
Mexico and the United States are hardly comparable. And, despite McGovern's concerns, there appears to be no reason to worry about a spike in such deaths.
Radley Balko, a reporter for the Huffington Post and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, has been tracking data on law enforcement deaths for years. When The Atlantic Wire asked him this morning if there was reason for concern, he suggested there wasn't. For one thing, there may be a connection between the Texas and Colorado killings. For another:
[T]he fact that these were higher-ranking law enforcement officials, and that they happened within a short period of time of one another, tends to generate a lot of coverage, which tends to lead to dot-connecting that probably isn't justified.
In short: "I'd be wary of calling this a trend."