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Latest police deaths part of violent trend

  |   Jan. 25, 2011 at 10:45 AM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The shooting deaths of two St. Petersburg, Fla., police officers are part of a troubling wave of violence that law enforcement officers call highly unusual.

Across the United States, 13 officers have been shot since Thursday, four fatally and several others critically wounded, The New York Times reported.

"It's unbelievable," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a research group in Washington. "I can't remember this many shootings happening in such a short period of time."

So far in 2011, 10 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, statistics indicate. In 2010, 61 federal, state and local officers were killed by gunfire, a 24 percent increase from 2009, the non-profit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said.

"It's a very troubling trend where officers are being put at greater risk than ever before," said Craig W. Floyd, the organization's chairman. "Many of these criminals are outgunning our police officers. We're seeing criminals with high-velocity clips on their guns."

The police shootings occur when violent crime rates are down in most U.S. cities, the Times reported. Wexler and several senior police officials said they think the uptick in shootings, in part, reflected a broader lack of respect for authority.

"This has become less of a horrific event to some," said Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department superintendent. "Unfortunately, we have a lot of young men who are willing to shoot first."

In St. Petersburg, the two slain officers were identified as Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz. They were trying to serve a felony arrest warrant for aggravated battery to the suspect, Hydra Lacy Jr., 39, a known sex offender, who also was killed Monday. A U.S. marshal was wounded.

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