Stillwater News Press

November 30, 2013

Police say assaults on officers are on the rise

By Megan Sando
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — The last time a Payne County Sheriff’s officer was shot and critically wounded in Stillwater was in May 1985.

Deputy Walter Longan was shot in the chest and right hand during a manhunt on State Highway 108.

Robert Allan Raymond, 31 years old and wanted for the homicide of his parents, was the primary suspect that spring day. Charges filed against Raymond were dropped. The reason? Death. Raymond turned the gun on himself.

Deputy C.W. Green recalled working during the manhunt in which nearly 20 agencies assisted, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“I remember walking up and seeing a pool of blood,” he said.

Despite officers being trained for injury, many expect danger as a part of their profession.

Recent data from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety indicates an increasing number of officers are assaulted on duty.

“When gunshots are being heard and other people are moving away from the sound, we move toward the sound,” Capt. Kevin Woodward said.

Woodward said people can be dangerous and stop at nothing to get away. Officers use the latest equipment, such as bullet-proof vests, Tasers, in-car computers and communications to keep safe, as well as attending training for shooting and defensive tactics.

Stillwater Police spokesman Capt. Randy Dickerson attributes violence to the number of people who are intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol.

In Payne County, two officers recently reported being assaulted in Cushing and Perkins.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper reported being allegedly bitten by a man in Cushing on Sept. 23.

Charges resulted not only in assault and battery on a police officer, but also but also for driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor.

Dickerson said police receive training on how to de-escalate situations and self-defense.

The goal is to end the situation without violence.

In July, a police officer was dragged by the suspect’s car in Perkins during a routine traffic stop. The officer was treated for minor injuries. According to court records, he reported smelling alcohol on the suspect.

Many officers are given training on how to overcome force or the threat of it.

“During the course of their duties, officers routinely face situations where they have to physically break up confrontations or physically take persons into custody,” Dickerson said. “Unfortunately, this occasionally results in injuries, to the officer or to the suspect.”

Dickerson said the police department has had one officer killed on duty in the mid 20th century.

Warren Graham was approximately 50 years old when he received a human bite that led to his death.

One national initiative to help relieve assault is the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance to establish the center.

The center’s mission is to “prevent felonious assaults against law enforcement” through information combined with the IACP’s safety initiatives, according to its website.

Nationally, 72 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2011.

DPS Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said attacks on police have consistently increased since 2009.

“It is concerning, the number of assaults targeted against law enforcement,” Thompson said. “The most troubling factor is the escalating violence our communities as a whole are exposed to.”