Last year proved to be another very deadly one for America’s law enforcement officers, with more than one murdered on average every single week. Most tragic? Many of these deaths, just like those of civilians, could have been prevented — were it not for misguided social-justice reforms and a failure to keep violent, mentally ill individuals off the streets.

The year ended with 61 officers murdered in the line of duty: 58 intentionally shot and 3 killed by perpetrators using their motor vehicle as a deadly weapon. Of those, 34 were murdered while handling 911 calls and 23 during domestic disturbances.

Among the first murders of the year: two NYPD Officers, Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora — ambushed on Jan. 21, 2022, while handling a domestic disturbance. In a theme seen throughout the year, these officers were shot by a convicted felon described as mentally ill.

The murderer had posted violent anti-police rhetoric on social media, but also had prior arrests for unlawful possession of a weapon and assaulting a cop. He was out on probation for a 2003 felony narcotics conviction, and, as criminals routinely do, he’d flouted some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, using an illegally possessed Glock 45 handgun and 40-round magazine.

Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were ambushed on Jan. 1, 2022, while handling a domestic disturbance.
AFP via Getty Images
The widow of slain NYPD cop Jason Rivera posted a new moving Instagram message on the day of his wake at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Rivera was shot by a convicted felon described as mentally ill.
Dominique Rivera/Instagram

The two officers were among the 35 killed in ambushes who never had a chance; perps killed 17 after pulling out a hidden weapon and shooting before the cops could react.

The speed of these life-or-death killings shows why officers insist people show their hands — and why they shoot people making furtive movements into their waistband, bags or glove compartments.

The most common characteristic linking 55 of the murdered cops: perpetrators who were wanted criminals or actively committing a crime. Two El Monte, Calif., Police Department officers, Michael Parades and Joseph Santana, were murdered by a career criminal out on probation who his wife described as emotionally disturbed.

The violent mentally ill frequently target innocent civilians all the time, so it’s not surprising they were also involved in a significant number of attacks on police. Notably, 24 (39%) of last year’s cop murderers were described as having some kind of mental illness, with 12 (24%) of them displaying suicidal tendencies. 

While society dithers over how to best care for the mentally ill, innocent civilians and brave police officers are needlessly killed by them.

Another group society is wrestling over is convicted criminals, including illegal immigrants, as activist prosecutors and lenient judges continue to prematurely release them upon the public: In 2022, by my estimate, 38% of the cop-killers should have still been in jail or deported.

That includes one who on Dec. 29 ambushed Riverside County, Calif., Deputy Sheriff Isaiah Cordero, fatally shooting him during a traffic stop. The killer had a long history of violence dating back to the 1990s that included kidnapping, robbery and assaults with deadly weapons. Having received his third strike in 2021, Deputy Cordero’s killer should have been locked up and serving 25 years to life.

Bail reform laws have increased the number of criminals released.
Twenty-three of the officers murdered in 2022 were surely preventable if not for soft-on-crime judges and prosecutors.
Toronto Star via Getty Images
Michael Paredes with wife Janine Paredes.
Michael Parades was murdered by a career criminal out on probation who his wife described as emotionally disturbed.

“We would not be here today if the judge had done her job,” fumed County Sheriff Chad Bianco. Months earlier, Officer Santana’s mother voiced a similar refrain: “I blame the death of my son and his partner on [Los Angeles District Attorney George] Gascón”; they were “murdered by a criminal [who] should have been in jail.”

The law-enforcement profession is dangerous, and those sworn to serve and protect our communities accept the risks. What is not acceptable is that 23 of the officers murdered in 2022 were surely preventable if not for soft-on-crime judges and prosecutors and social-justice reforms prioritizing the rights of criminals over others — reforms that victimized not only cops but thousands of civilian families whose loved ones too were murdered by assailants who should have been incarcerated, institutionalized or deported.

Just how many more American families must suffer before voters hold those who’ve unleashed the predators responsible?

Mike Simonelli, a police officer in New York and retired Army officer, is the author of “Justified Deadly Force and the Myth of Systemic Racism.”

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