Deadly Ambush Shootings of Police Spiked to 21 in 2016, Report Says

"You'd have to go back almost to the 1970s to see a similar experience in American policing," Bill Bratton told NBC News

This year was particularly deadly for police officers in the United States, with 21 deadly ambush shootings marking the highest number in more than two decades, according to a law enforcement advocacy group that tracks fatal shootings of officers. 

Those shootings, including the five officers gunned down in Dallas in July, are a 163 percent increase from 2015, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's annual fatalities report, released Thursday. Overall, 64 officers were fatally shot in the year, a more than 50 percent increase year over year.

Police shootings were a major issue in the U.S. in 2016, both when officers were targeted and when they shot suspects who appeared not to be a danger.

In fact, the ambush in downtown Dallas took place in the midst of a peaceful protest against officer-involved shootings across the nation, with gunman Micah Xavier Johnson leaving seven other officers wounded along with two civilians before police tracked him down and killed him.

Less than two weeks later, three officers were killed in an ambush in Baton Rouge.

"You'd have to go back almost to the 1970s to see a similar experience in American policing," where officers were regularly being targeted, NBC News analyst and former New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton told NBC.

President Barack Obama held a closed-door meeting with police, activist and civic leaders in the wake of the Dallas shooting to try and hash out a way to improve police-community relations, but emerged saying America is "not even close" to where it needs to be to resolve those issues.

Police shootings were a major issue in the presidential campaign as well, with eventual-President-elect Donald Trump touting himself as the "law and order candidate" and winning the endorsement of the national police union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund report said there were 135 total officer fatalities in 2016, including automobile crashes and other causes, the most since 2011 but below the average for the decade between 2006 and 2015.

Texas had the most officer fatalities, at 17, followed by California, Louisiana and Georgia.

"As we begin the new year, let us all resolve to respect, honor, and remember those who have served us so well and sacrificed so much in the name of public safety," memorial fund President and CEO Craig W. Floyd said in a statement.

The organization inscribes the names of officers killed in the line of duty on a monument in Washington, D.C. There are nearly 21,000 names on it already.

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