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Firearms leading cause of LOD deaths, ambushes on rise

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: March 23, 2017


—    Excerpted from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF)

It’s a simple equation, yet many fail to realize when police officers are targeted and killed, we are all in danger. In 2016, officer duty deaths were the highest they’ve been in five years and deadly ambush attacks reached a 20-year high.

“All of these tragedies remind us in very stark terms that America’s law enforcement professionals are facing clear and growing dangers on our behalf. And, when our police officers are at risk, we are all at risk,” said Craig W. Floyd, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) President and CEO following ambush attacks in the fall.

Line of duty deaths increased 10 percent to 135, up from 123 in 2015 and firearms-related incidents were the leading cause of death in 2016, according to the NLEOMF in their preliminary 2016 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report.

Sixty-four officers were shot and killed across the country. This represents a significant spike — 56 percent — over the 41 officers killed by gunfire in 2015. Of the 64 shooting deaths, 21 were the result of ambush-style attacks — the highest total in more than two decades. (Subsequent to the report being issued, another officer was killed in 2016 bringing the total to 136 and 65 shooting deaths.)

Ambush attacks against officers began to crescendo in 2015, but hit a new high in 2016 causing the NLEOMF and law enforcement officials nationwide to call for the media, elected officials, community leaders, and law abiding citizens to come together to create a partnership where trust can be found among each other.

“Public safety is a partnership and, too often, the service and sacrifice of our law enforcement professionals is taken for granted,” Floyd said. “We must never forget that 900,000 law enforcement officers nationwide risk their lives every day for our safety and protection. And, this year, (136) of those men and women did not make it home to their families at the end of their shift. 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.”

Eight multiple-shootings claimed the lives of 20 officers in 2016, tied with 1971 for the highest total of any year since 1932. Those incidents included five officers killed in ambush attacks in Dallas, Texas and three in Baton Rouge, Louisiana spanning 10 days in July.

“It is beyond my comprehension that… law enforcement officers are the subject of assassinations. It is unacceptable,” said John Ashcroft, Chairman of the NLEOMF Board of Directors. “We must stop the scourge and slaughter of our law enforcement officials around the country. The fallen have fallen in order to preserve the rule of law, and we must sustain it or we repudiate the sacrifice that they made.”

Line of duty fatalities were the highest since 2011, when 177 officers died, and Michigan was among the deadliest states in 2016. Texas had most officer fatalities with 17, followed by California with 10, Louisiana with nine, Georgia with eight, and Michigan with six. One of POLC’s own, Wayne State University Officer Collin Rose, is among those who made the ultimate sacrifice in 2016. Rose was shot in the head by a perpetrator he was questioning about a crime.

Traffic-related incidents were up 10 percent from 2015. Fifty-three officers were killed on roadways in 2016 compared to 48 in 2015. Of the 53 traffic-related deaths, 28 died in automobile crashes, 15 were struck and killed while outside of their vehicle, and 10 were killed in motorcycle crashes. Prior to 2016, traffic-related incidents have been the number one cause of officer fatalities in 15 of the last 20 years.

Eighteen officers died from other causes in 2016, including 11 who died from job-related illnesses — mostly heart attacks — while performing their duties. Other causes included beatings (3), a drowning, a fall, an aircraft crash and a stabbing.

Six Federal law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2016, along with four from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and one tribal officer. Six of the fallen were women. The average age of death was 40, and the average length of service was 13 years.

There are 20,789 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1791. The statistics released are based on preliminary data through Dec. 28, 2016 compiled by the NLEOMF and do not represent a final annual total or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2016. For a complete copy of the preliminary 2016 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.

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