CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Assaults against police officers rose in 2020 from year before

Oct 21, 2021, 6:00 AM

police officer assaults...

FILE: Salt Lake City police officers respond to a call of shots fired at Liberty Park on October 20, 2021. Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera confirmed a national trend of increased assaults on police officers is also true in Utah. (Nick Wyatt, KSL Newsradio)

(Nick Wyatt, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The FBI reports over 60,000 police officers were assaulted last year, representing an increase in assaults over the year before. Bureau officials say approximately 31% of them resulted in injury to officers. 

Police officer assaults on the rise 

FBI officials tell ABC News there was an increase of more than 4,000 assaults on police officers between 2019 and 2020. The agency says most of the assaults happened when police responded to domestic disturbance calls. Many of them happened during a summer of protests following the murder of George Floyd

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera says there was an increase in assaults in Utah as well. She says attitudes toward police have noticeably changed since last year. 

“Across the country, we’ve seen where individuals have actually targeted police,” Rivera said. 

The sheriff says targeting of officers has not happened in Utah, but she has seen the growth of another trend. 

“We’ve seen an increase in just resisting in simple cases. A simple case of a shoplift. It used to be you just go up there, you have a conversation, you write them a citation. Now, it just turns into a big brawl,” she said. 

Read more: Salt Lake City accused of civil rights violations during Floyd protest

Rivera explains many of the assault charges result from a suspect resisting arrest. Regardless, she says it makes the job taxing on officers’ mental wellbeing in addition to their physical safety. 

“If you’re having to look behind your back nonstop, not knowing [if] the next individual that’s coming up to you is pro-police or not, it plays on your mind,” says Rivera. 

At a time when the Salt Lake City Police Department is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of officers, Rivera says the negative perception of police is also impacting recruiting. 

“People do not want to make this their profession any longer and we’re trying to encourage people to come join us. It really is something that many people will get a lot out of in protecting your communities. And we do need more people,” Rivera said. 

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Assaults against police officers rose in 2020 from year before