By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Even though he endures painful days of physical therapy in hopes of being free of his wheelchair, wounded Clairton Police Officer James Kuzak considers himself lucky.

“I consider myself lucky beyond any belief,” he said.

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He’s fortunate to have survived in a year that that claimed the lives of 72 police officer nationwide, an all-time record up 25 percent from 2010 and 75 percent from 2008.

It underscores the fact that even as crime rates go down, police work has become more dangerous.

“It just goes to show you that nothing is ever routine,” Kuzak said. “We never have termed things, ‘routine.’ A traffic stop’s a traffic stop. It’s never a routine traffic stop.”

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In western Pennsylvania, nine officers have been killed in the line of duty since 2005, including the three Pittsburgh officers killed three years ago last week. Kuzak believes this is a sign of declining morality.

“The generation I was raised in, I believe we still had a lot of respect for authority, whether that be police, teachers or anything of that degree and or your parents,” Kuzak said.

But shooting at police officers is no longer a rare occasion.

“They’d rather take that chance of getting away and shooting their way out than to take the chance of dealing with the court.”

But regardless of the reasons, it’s clear that police work is becoming increasingly dangerous, requiring the police officers to become ever more vigilant for their sake and the sake of their families.

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