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Line-of-duty deaths are lowest in 4 years

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: March 9, 2018

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

Law enforcement line-of-duty deaths nationwide over the past year were lower than they’ve been the past four years, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), a nonprofit group that has long tracked officer fatalities.

The NLEOMF announced in its 2017 Preliminary Law Enforcement Fatalities Report that 128 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty. That’s the lowest annual figure since the 117 officer deaths in 2013 and a 10 percent decrease over the 143 officers who died in the line of duty in 2016.

“After three consecutive years of rising deaths in the law enforcement profession, this year’s decline offered some encouraging news,” said NLEOMF CEO Craig W. Floyd. “Sadly, though, the 128 officers who lost their lives in 2017 reminds us that public safety comes at a very steep price and we must never take the service and sacrifice of our policing professionals for granted, nor should we ever forget the officers who died and their families.”

Traffic-related fatalities have been the leading cause of officer deaths for the past 15 of 20 years and 2017 is no exception. The number of officers killed in single-vehicle collisions rose from 11 in 2016 to 14 in 2017. Single-vehicle crashes accounted for 42 percent of all fatal officer crashes in 2017.

However, the total number of traffic-related deaths declined from 54 officers in 2016 to 47 officers in 2017, a 13 percent drop. There were 40 percent less officers struck and killed while outside of their vehicles last year, with nine in 2017 compared to 15 in 2016.

There was a significant reduction — 33 percent — in law enforcement personnel shot and killed in the line of duty. Forty-four officers were shot and killed across the country in 2017 compared to 66 officers who died from gunfire in 2016. Seven officers were killed responding to domestic disturbance calls — the number one circumstance for gunfire fatalities.

Thirty-seven officers died from other causes in 2017 including:
• Sixteen attributed to job-related ailments, mainly heart attacks (10).
• Seven officers were beaten to death.
• Five officers drowned while working during hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
• Four died from an illness contracted during 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts.
• Two officers died in a helicopter crash.
• Two were killed in boating accidents.
• One officer was stabbed to death.

Texas had the most officer duty deaths in 2017 at 14; followed by New York and Florida with nine deaths; California with seven officers killed; and Georgia and North Carolina, which each had six line of duty deaths. Twelve correctional officers died in the line of duty in 2017. There were five federal officers killed in 2017; five officers who served with territorial agencies; three with tribal agencies; and two who served with university departments.

Nine of the fallen officers in 2017 were female, an increase over the seven who died in 2016. Among the officers who died this past year, 42 was the average age and the average length of service was 13 years.

Floyd said that while there has been a spike in officer fatalities since 2013, the overall trend since the 1970s has been downward. In the 1970s, our nation averaged 234 law enforcement line of duty deaths each year, Floyd said. During the 10 years prior to 2017, the average annual fatality figure for officers dropped 34 percent to 153 per year and the 128 deaths in 2017 was even lower.

Floyd said reasons for the overall decline in officer fatalities include: better training; improved equipment; a greater emphasis on officer safety and wellness than ever before; and stronger relationships between law enforcement and the public.

There are currently 21,183 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to 1791. That number will increase this spring when new names are added to the national monument. The deadliest year on record for line of duty deaths was 1930, when 307 law enforcement officers were killed. The last time officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was 1944.

The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the NLEOMF and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2018. For a complete copy of the preliminary 2017 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.

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