JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - This year will rank as the worst for police officers killed in the line of duty in recent years.
With only a few days left, national crime stats show 64 officers were killed by gunfire in 2016, a 68 percent increase from last year. Two of the officers included were mistakenly killed by fellow officers' gunfire.
"We're talking about issues around the core issue. We're not looking at ourselves in the mirror and being honest. We're focused on whats and not whys," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.
Normand lost one of his deputies, Detective David Michele, in June. The death spotlights the reality law enforcement officers face every day. The sheriff believes community relations, a lack of respect for authority and overall violence are the biggest issues that can often lead to the death of officers.
"We're killing people over relationships. We're stealing people's property. We're committing crimes that are degrading our communities and our quality of life day in and day out, then we ask why we have all this conflict. It doesn't make sense to me. It's mystifying," Normand said.
"I think it is a wake-up call, and I think that the public, the neighborhood groups and citizen activist groups need to stay active, but they need to stay well-informed and understand what's going on," Loyola criminologist George Capowich said.
Capowich points out that while there is an increase in law enforcement deaths in 2016, statistics show the number of incidents has decreased when looked at over the long term. To fix the current problem, broken community relationships between law enforcement and the public are under repair across the country.
"When you see that being done, then you can see fewer of these incidents. But as long as there is anti-police sentiment, you're going to continue to see incidents where people are targeting police because they're under the perception that police are targeting civilians, which is not really the narrative," New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
Although 2016 saw an increase in officer deaths, the number of civilians killed by police decreased nationally by 70 cases, and when law enforcement find themselves on either end of violence, that often leads to changes to keep it from happening again.
"Is there a sense of uncomfortableness? Yes, very much so," Normand said. "You really don't want to go through it again, but I think everyone recognizes there is value in that."
Louisiana ranks third, with a total of nine officers killed this year behind Texas and California. The total number of officers killed this year, 139, is up 16 percent from last year, and is the highest number since 2011, when 171 officers died in the line of duty.