COLUMBIA, S.C.  (WVOC/AP) - More and more, criminals are using violence against law enforcement.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department says it's seeing an average of one assault each week against its deputies.

Sheriff's Captain Chris Cowan says, “Last year alone, 43 bullets were shot at 17 different deputies.  We had 69 deputies assaulted in 63 separate incidents.  So it's very concerning.  It shows a trend of belligerence against authority.”

Sheriff Leon Lott feels this is the most violence he's seen against cops in his 39 years of law enforcement.  He says the lack of respect for authority and for the rights of others cannot be tolerated.  

And Cowan says deputies are receiving extra training to deal with it, including 'verbal judo,' self defense, ground fighting, active shooter training and use of force, “making sure that we're mentally, physically and operationally prepared to handle whatever comes our way.  

“Nobody wants to use any type of force, let alone deadly force.  But if the deputies are forced to do that, then they will do it,” Cowan says.

Sometimes, the increased threat and uncertainty of violence results in unintended consequences.

An elderly North Carolina man was fatally shot in South Carolina this week when the officer thought the man was reaching for a rifle from the bed of his pickup.

70-year-old Bobby Canipe was shot once Tuesday after being stopped for an expired license plate as he drove home to North Carolina from the Daytona 500.

24-year-old York County Sheriff's Deputy Terrence Knox says he didn't realize Canipe was actually reaching for his cane.

The shooting is the ninth officer-involved shooting in South Carolina this year.

That puts the state at a pace of more than one person shot by an officer each week. 

The State Law Enforcement Division says officer-involved shootings are on the rise in South Carolina, with 42 reported last year – up from 27 people shot by officers back in 2009.