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I Got 5 On It: Dangerous things police officers do

I'll be the first to admit I don't always agree with police tactics.

But that doesn't mean I don't have appreciation for the officers out there dealing with and fighting crime on a daily basis. I've put together a list of dangerous things cops often have to do.

1) Traffic stops

Traffic stops are routine for police officers. They pull over thousands of vehicles every day. But they also can be very unpredictable. Almost all cops I've talked to have said this to me. Luckily, officers spend time training through different scenarios. My friend, Rob, is a retired New York City police officer. He and his partner, Steve, relied on that training during their traffic stops. He said the training paid off because they encountered weapons and drugs on numerous occasions and never had to use his firearm.

Here's just one example of how unpredictable traffic stops can be.

2) Domestic violence calls

Officers responding to a domestic violence call never quite know what they are going to get. Often, these calls involve violence combined with drugs and/or alcohol, which can lead to very dangerous situations. These types of calls can also be difficult for cops to resolve.

This statistic says it all: 14 percent of police officers killed in the line of duty between 1996 and 2009 were responding to a domestic violence call. Last year, two Phoenix police officers were injured after being ambushed by a man with a machete during a domestic violence call. Like traffic stops, the unpredictability of these calls increases the danger levels.

3) Undercover work

They dangers of being undercover almost go without saying, but research suggests 66 percent of undercover cops "sometimes" or "always" feel stress while doing their jobs. Stress isn't the only hazard though.

Undercover officers face dangers from infiltrating the underworlds of drugs, prostitution and gangs. The organizations they penetrate are often dangerous and on top of that they could even face danger from the people they interact outside of those organizations.

One LAPD officer was killed while buying heroin undercover. An undercover San Diego cop was stabbing when she was posing as a prostitute over a territorial dispute. A Houston undercover officer was killed in 2009 while investigating a stolen TV ring.

There are far too many of these stories to go along with the numbers of officers who became addicted to drugs during an undercover operation. These types of jobs aren't for everyone.

4) Patrolling dangerous neighborhoods

I'll again refer to my retired cop friend, Rob. After he graduated from the NYPD academy he was assigned to one of the most crime-ridden areas of Brooklyn. Within his first few years on the job he was shot at, responded to calls of riots, had bottles of urine thrown at him and was almost killed by a bed after it was thrown at him from the top of a building.

After a couple of high-profile shootings where NYPD officers killed unarmed civilians, the brass is thinking of changing the policies of putting so many rookies in these high-crime neighborhoods. They tend to be less friendly towards police officers.

In most cities (Detroit, New Orleans, Phoenix) major crimes occur in very specific areas. Officers patrolling these areas are always on alert as they have increased potential to encounter dangerous situations.

5) Serving high-risk warrants

Phoenix Police Det. John Hobbs and Det. AJ Casados were conducting surveillance on William Thornton on Monday, March 3. They had a felony warrant for Thornton's arrest. He was wanted for attempted murder after allegedly shooting someone point blank in the chest. Hobbs and Casados, as well as another unnamed detective, were tasked with tracking him down as part of the Phoenix Police's Major Offender Bureau.

These are the guys that go after Phoenix's most dangerous criminals. Thornton had no regard for other people's lives. On Monday, he spotted the police surveillance and tried to evade it. After crashing his vehicle at 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home, he started shooting at Hobbs and Casados. Hobbs was shot three times and was later pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital. Casados was hit once and hospitalized. Thankfully, he's been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. The wanted man, Thornton, was pronounced dead at the scene.

It is worth noting that both Hobbs and Casados signed up to work in the Major Offender Bureau. They want to get the most dangerous criminals off the streets. It's highly-dangerous work and we should all be grateful officers like these two do it every day.

About the Author


Rob spent his formative years growing up in Massachusetts, but after graduating from Emerson College in Boston, he's had the privilege of living in Florida, New Orleans and New Mexico. Rob & his wife Amy have lived in Phoenix since 2006 when he joined KTAR. Rob is passionate about our freedom and rights -- something he learned to love while growing up in the Boston area.

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