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    Police officers' safety will remain the highest priority while they are performing their duties, Houston Police Department chief said.

    WASHINGTON, January 1 (Sputnik) – People involved in discussions of police-community relations should lower the rhetoric and remember that policemen safety remains being the prime concern, Houston Police Department (HPD) Chief Charles McClelland Jr. told the Sputnik news agency.

    "Our officers' safety will remain the highest priority while they are performing their duties," McClelland said. "I encourage everyone to lower the rhetoric and respect the role that police officers must perform while keeping our cities safe."

    He added he also expected lawmen to respect people's constitutional rights and treat them with dignity and respect.

    According to the preliminary data, released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund on Tuesday, 126 law enforcement officers were killed in the outgoing year, while the number of gun-related deaths rose by 56 percent.

    With 11 police officers fatalities, Texas ranked second deadliest state, followed by New York. The highest number of deaths was seen in California, where 14 officers have lost their lives.

    "We all know that law enforcement is a challenging and sometimes dangerous profession," McClelland said.

    Los Angeles and New York Police Departments told Sputnik they would have to verify statistics before giving any further comments.

    Police safety became a highly-discussed issue after December shooting of two officers in New York. The incident took place after a number of rallies for police accountability across the United States. They were fueled by recent grand jury decisions not to indict the white officers responsible for deaths of two black men in Missouri and New York.


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