LOS ANGELES — Police officers respond to a loud noise call and are confronted by a 30-year-old man wielding a sharp cane. The man lunges forward and attacks one of the officers after he's ordered to drop the makeshift weapon.
As the man pins one of the officers against a wall and repeatedly hits him with the cane, another officer opens fire and the suspect later dies at a hospital.
The scenario that played out in August at an apartment complex has been part of a disturbing trend in Los Angeles this year where both assaults on officers and officer-involved shootings have risen, despite violent crime dropping nearly 8 percent across the nation's second largest city.
Police have been unable to find why there have been more attacks on officers, but say more training and taking added precaution have been essential to ensure their safety.
"It seems these situations are arising more often when there are spontaneous, rapidly unfolding events," said Cmdr. Andy Smith. "Assaults are on rise and we have to be extraordinarily cautious. We are doing everything we can to keep our officers safe."
Smith said there have been 185 assaults with a deadly weapon against officers this year, compared to 146 in 2010. The category is defined as any incident that is likely to cause death or great bodily injury.
Assaults on officers have been trending down nationally the past few years, the FBI reported. There were roughly 53,000 officers attacked in 2010, compared to more than 57,000 in 2009. No statistics have been made available for 2011, although violent crime for the first half of the year was down nearly 6½ percent.
There have been 43 officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles this year, compared to just 25 in 2010.
Police Chief Charlie Beck has speculated that quicker response times — thanks to better technology — may have led to more confrontations between officers and suspects.
"Technology is allowing officers to better pinpoint crimes and get to the crime scene before a violent felon has exited," said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. "Maybe that explains why violent crime is going down while the violence against officers is going up."
Floyd's organization tracks officers killed on duty, and so far this year there have been 174 deaths, up 18 percent from 2010. Firearm-related fatalities are up 23 percent, the fund reported.
Dennis Kenney, a professor at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said there appears to be a growing, anti-authority sentiment across the nation that was evidenced by the slew of Occupy protests this year.
The statistics don't "necessarily say we're becoming a more violent people but we are becoming more willing to confront authority and it suggests we are less tolerant of police," Kenney said.
Fostering better relationships with the communities they serve has been a priority for police departments over the last two decades, said Walter McNeil, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
He said the organization has partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to create the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against Police that will look at how violence against officers can be prevented.
"We want to establish good, strong rapport with our communities, so our officers are not strange faces," McNeil said. "If that happens, perhaps that can reduce negative contact with citizens."