As murder rate drops, cop killings rise

February 16, 2009 3:48:01 PM PST
Since 2006, Philadelphia has had eight police officers killed in the line of duty.The 35th District has been hardest hit. 15 months ago the 35th lost Chuck Cassidy and now another, John Pawlowski.

Pawlowski was shot the killed during a confrontation Friday night in the Olney section of the city. The alleged killer, Rasheed Scrugs, was shot, but survived. He remains at Einstein Medical Center, and doctors say his condition is improving.

Monday morning, roll call was understandably difficult and emotional for the officers. Most are serving in the 35th District because they want to be: It's a busy district that sees a lot of action.

It's for that reason 25-year-old John Pawlowski got himself transferred here.

"The best way to honor John is to hold the roll call, the officers, the men and women accept their assignments, and go out there and answer the calls professionally and promptly," said Lt. Bill Digiuseppe. "That's how we honor John."

Ironically, police work appears to have gotten more dangerous as the city gets safer. The murder rate is down 15%, while shootings are down 11%.

Yet, Philadelphia is losing cops at an alarming rate. Experts say effective policing has put officers more at risk, by concentrating on high crime areas with saturation coverage.

That means the police are putting themselves in harms way more often.

"Once you start doing that you end up with a situation that will increase the risk to police officers, because it's increasing the contact they have with serious, violent offenders," said Jerry Ratcliff, a criminologist at Temple University. "It's good, smart policing, but it's certainly more risky for police officers."

CLICK HERE for photos of fallen officers.

The police say it's also more risky because they are seeing criminals back on the streets almost as quickly as they lock them up.

Scrugs, the suspect who shot Officer Pawlowski, has a long criminal record.

Some officers wonder if it's worth the risk, if the bad guys keep coming back for more.

"As a police supervisor it's extremely frustrating, we see it every day," Lt. Digiuseppe said.

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