Some are calling it a "war on cops."
During a 24-hour span Sunday and Monday, 11 police officers around the country were shot, with three dying. Three days earlier, two officers were killed while serving a warrant in Florida.
"It's got everybody concerned," Oneonta Police Chief Joseph Redmond said Wednesday.
In 2010, 162 police officers died in the line of duty, with traffic accidents the leading cause of death.
But 61 were shot and killed that year.
The 14 deaths from all causes so far this month have matched the 14 deaths recorded last year.
However, this January has seen a 40 percent increase in slayings over January 2010, Redmond said Wednesday.
Richard Roberts, spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, told MSNBC.com recently there is a perception among law enforcement in the field that there was a "war on cops."
On Tuesday, Redmond sent an e-mail drawing attention to the shootings and the need for vigilance.
One of those who received the chief's e-mail is officer Jeff Gallusser. In March, Gallusser will have spent five years patrolling the streets of Oneonta. Gallusser said every time he hears of an officer dying in the line of duty, it hits home.
"This profession is a family," Gallusser, 28, said Wednesday.
No such thing as 'routine'
Although law enforcement officers often say there is no such thing as "routine" in their profession, some of the most recent shootings seem to develop from nothing out of the ordinary. A report of a suspicious person at a Walmart in Port Orchard, Wash., suddenly turned into a shootout in the parking lot. A man connected to a kidnapping investigation walked into a Detroit police station without warning and opened fire, wounding four officers.
"It's disturbing," Gallusser said. "You never know what you are going to be dealing with."
That was the case on April 2, when 16-year-old Anthony Pacherille allegedly chased classmate Wesley Lippitt to the Cooperstown Police Station and shot and wounded him with a .22-caliber rifle. Officer James Cox was sitting at a computer to check e-mail in the Cooperstown Police Station when he heard shots. He ordered the alleged shooter to drop his rifle. During the incident, the shooter aimed the gun at himself, firing into his chin, according to police.
Pacherille is scheduled for trial later this year on attempted second-degree murder.
Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene to assist Cox and helped him make sure he hadn't been struck.
"Your adrenaline is going so much," Cox said. "At the time, I did not know that I really missed a round. It was after the fact."
A bullet hole was four or five inches from his head, he said Thursday, while sitting in front of the same computer. Cox said muscle-memory and training prompted him to bolt toward the alleged shooter.
"That's one of the big things they teach you _ you never let your guard down," Cox said.
Although there is no indication the Cooperstown shooter was targeting police or the police station, that is not always the case, according to Cox.
Officer: Sometimes police are target
A reality of law enforcement is that sometimes mentally deranged people set out to kill police, he said.
As in Detroit earlier this month, would-be assailants find their targets at the police station. In the case of four Lakewood, Wash. police officers, a shooter ambushed them in a coffee shop Nov. 29, 2009. But in most cases, the deaths come while police are in the field conducting traffic stops, responding to domestic disputes or making arrests.
Lt. Dennis Nayor of the Oneonta Police Department said unpredictability is the nature of police work.
"They could be stopping someone for a tail light out and they can have a felony warrant in another state," Nayor said.
That's what happened when Trooper Sean Brown pulled over Ralph "Bucky" Phillips on June 10 near Elmira.
Phillips, who had escaped from Erie County jail April 2, shot Brown as he approached the stolen car the fugitive was driving. Brown survived, but Phillips escaped, sparking a three-month manhunt that at one point was focused in the Afton and Hancock areas.
Phillips later ambushed two state troopers, killing one of them, before he was caught in a Pennsylvania field.
Traffic stops can be deadly
A traffic stop in Margaretville on April 24, 2007 also turned deadly for state police.
Trooper Matthew Gambosi pulled Travis D. Trim, 23, of North Lawrence, over in a gas station parking lot, and Trim opened fire, striking the trooper in the chest. Body armor allowed Gambosi to quickly return to duty. But during a shootout in a farmhouse during the search for Trim, the fugitive and Trooper David Brinkerhoff were killed.
Police shootings by nature can be highly unpredictable. But there are some commonalities among offenders, many of whom will stop at nothing to escape.
"A lot of them have a high propensity of violence with nothing to lose," Nayor said.
New officers are taught to look for signals and to be cognizant of a person's demeanor, behavior, body movements.
"We rely on the sergeants to provide them with the guidance they need," Nayor said.
Officer Lucas Shaw, 22, will graduate from the Otsego County Law Enforcement Academy in March. But he has been an Oneonta officer since last year and is conducting his mandatory field training.
"I never realized there is such a danger in every little thing a cop does," Shaw said Wednesday, reflecting on his new career.
Shaw also read Redmond's e-mail.
"It's a sad event for the families and other officers," he said.
But Shaw said he understands the reason why details of these incidents get circulated among law enforcement _ it's to help prevent them from happening in the future.
"You always have to have in your mind that even the slightest, most calm situations could turn into anything," Shaw said.
A simple thing like someone a police officer encounters on the street with their hands inside their pockets can be an indicator something might not be right, Shaw said.
"For us, it's an honest safety issue," Shaw said.
This doesn't mean an officer should be walking around in a state of paranoia, he said.
"It's a mind-set and training to be tactical," Shaw said. "The danger could be anywhere."
The sheer randomness of law enforcement is what Gallusser said he finds so appealing about it. It is also what makes being a cop a dangerous profession.
The latest shootings were unnerving, he said.
"It's just disturbing," Gallusser said.
And it would be wrong to have the attitude that they couldn't happened in the Oneonta area, he said.
"You never know," Gallusser said. "We have a lot of drug activity in Oneonta."
As a community along an interstate highway, there is also a possibility of fugitives passing through.
A common denominator among several of the shooters from this month is they had extensive criminal histories and some had active arrest warrants. That itself is motivating for Gallusser.
"It makes me want to get these guys off the street," Gallusser said.
Out of everything he does, responses to domestic disputes are perhaps among the most dangerous situations, because police often don't have much information and the people involved are often emotionally charged, Gallusser said.
Despite the recent deaths and the increase in slayings last year, there have been deadlier decades for police.
The 116 deaths in 2009 were a 50-year low. Forty-eight of those officers were slain. The annual death tolls are still lower than seen in the 1970s, when in some years, more than 200 officers would die in the line of duty _ levels also seen in the 1920s during Prohibition.
Since the 1970s, the use of body armor by law enforcement has become widespread.
renewed focus on training and professionalism
There has also been a renewed focus on training and professionalism, according to the senior law enforcement officials interviewed by The Daily Star.
Among these is Delaware County Undersherrif Doug Vredenburgh, who started his law enforcement career in 1970.
"I think it's a spike. It's hard to pinpoint why. I don't think there is any national trend here that's going to impact Delaware County," Vredenburgh said of the series of recent, unrelated shootings. "That's not to say it's something we shouldn't be aware of."
But although they may help remind officers to keep their guard up, they may also inspire other criminals to shoot back instead of surrender.
Law enforcement needs to continue to focus on professionalism, training and remaining as vigilant as possible, he said.
"We do a lot of active-shooter training," Vredenburgh said. "That happened after Columbine."
Agencies across the country took a harder look at training after the Columbine massacre in 1999. An investigation into the mass shooting found that law enforcement was too slow to react.
Delaware County, like other rural parts of New York state, has its own challenges.
Backup is often 10 to 15 minutes away, Vredenburgh said.
"Oftentimes an officer will have to deal with a situation by himself," Vredenburgh said.
Despite an apparent increase in police "cluster" killings, data from 2009 showed most of the officers killed were working alone.
Several law enforcement agencies are on the same 911 systems and are able to back each other up, Vredenburgh said.
"We do work together and it's the 'closest car' concept," Vredenburgh said.
In Oneonta, the police will typically ride in pairs during the night and early-morning shifts.
There are two people who come to Shaw's mind when asked who is concerned about the dangers he may face: his mother and his fiancée.
"They're worried, but they are very proud," Shaw said.
When he hangs up his uniform after his shift, one of the first things he does is reach for his phone and call his fiancee, who lives in Apalachin.
"She likes me to call her when I am done to make sure I'm okay," Shaw said.
Gallusser has a wife and three children. He said his wife worries but understands he loves his job.
"This job is great," Gallusser said. "But I can't imagine what she goes through when she hears about cops getting killed."
Jake Palmateer can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 221, or at email@example.com.
Police deaths at a glance
Excerpts from FBI data on the 536 police slayings from 2000 to 2009:
"¢ Texas led all states with 53 police slayings last decade. California was second, with 47. New York was 11th, with 15, although due to ties, 14 states had higher death tolls than New York.
"¢ The deadliest year was 2001, when 70 died. That figure does not include the 72 killed during the 9/11 attacks. The least deadly year was 2008, when 41 officers were killed.
"¢ August was the deadliest month. The deadliest day was Thursday. The deadliest time of day was between 8 and 10 p.m.
"¢ The majority of officers killed, 337, were almost evenly divided between attempted arrests, ambushes or traffic stops or pursuits. About 8 percent were killed during domestic disputes.
"¢ About 22 percent of slain officers fired their weapons during the incident.
"¢ Forty-one of the slain officers were killed with their own weapons.
"¢ Firearms were used in 91 percent of police slayings, with nearly 73 percent being handguns, 19 percent being rifles and 8 percent being shotguns. Vehicles were the leading cause of death in non-firearm police slayings.
"¢ About 64 percent of slain officers killed by firearms were wearing body armor. Of these, 69 percent were killed by wounds to the head or neck.
"¢ Slightly more than half killed by firearms -- 50.4 percent -- were slain by an assailant who was 5 feet or less away.
"¢ Of the known offenders, nearly 82 percent had prior arrests, 42 percent had at least one drug arrest and nearly 4 percent had a prior murder arrest.
"¢ Of the known offenders, more than 28 percent were on parole, probation or some other form of judicial supervision at the time of the slaying.
"¢ About 98 percent of known offenders were men. Slain officers were 95 percent male.
"¢ Nearly 56 percent of known offenders were white (both non-Hispanic and Hispanic), while nearly 42 percent were black. Nearly 84 percent of slain officers were white (both non-Hispanic and Hispanic), and 14 percent were black.
"¢ The 18- to 24-year-old age group accounted for 36 percent of known offenders, the largest group. The 25- to 30-year-old age group accounted for nearly 19 percent, the second-largest group.