According to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 129 federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in the first six months of 2022.
“I’ve gone to 109 law enforcement funerals in the state of Florida in my career, and every single funeral, every single response, every single emotion that happens at those funerals is the reason why I continue to do it,” said Cpl. David Schaare.
Schaare is a motor officer for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. He also leads the agency’s honor guard, a role he never takes for granted.
“For me, the one steady thing for going to all those funerals is the reminder of the outcome of the risk and to remain safe and to come home,” Schaare said.
But Schaare knows all too well that not everybody comes home. His honor guard unit recently attended Deputy Christopher Taylor’s memorial service. Taylor was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 22, 2022. He was just 23 years old when a drunk driver caused a crash that killed him.
“The conditions out there for the men and women who serve us out on the street are increasingly dangerous,” said Bill Alexander.
Bill Alexander is a former police officer and is now the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
“Most people would know us for the actual memorial, where we inscribe the names of the men and women who have died in the line of duty on our sacred walls,” Alexander said.
The Memorial Fund’s most recent data shows a marked increase in firearm and traffic-related officer deaths in the first six months of 2022.
“The risk is always inherent, the risk is always going to be there, and I feel that my colleagues have the same perspective of this job,” Schaare said.
In the first six months of 2022, 33 officers died from gunfire, an 18% increase over the 28 officers killed by gunfire during the first six months of 2021.
The NLOMF further states, “A marked increase in traffic-related crashes thus far in 2022 should also be a concern for law enforcement agencies nationwide.”
The data shows that traffic-related deaths are up by 25% compared to the same time period last year.
“I really do fundamentally believe that the profession is constantly looking at ways to keep the officers, the men and women who serve within this profession safer, and not just the officers who are serving…but the community and the public that they are serving in turn,” Alexander said. “To keep all of us safe, the officers and the public as safe as possible.”
Every line-of-duty death is unique and often traumatic. CCSO has a victim and senior advocacy unit to help families cope with a loss.
“The healing process takes time, and it actually looks different for each person,” said Angela Larson, the unit’s supervisor.
Larson serves as a liaison between CCSO’s administration and families.
“We help them navigate what’s to come, whether it’s the actual services and the honors that are going to be presented by the Honor Guard and the Sheriff’s Office, or understanding their benefits through state and federal programs,” she said.
This is an integral part of the healing process, as families must deal with many unprecedented burdens following a line-of-duty death.
“Trying to help people in a time that is the utmost worst for them personally, just to make it a little more bearable…is why I do it,” Larson said. “The resiliency that they can gain from having that support early on.”
WINK News reached out to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, but it’s too soon for their officers to talk about the loss of Christopher Taylor.
You can read the 2022 Mid-year Preliminary Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report online.