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Police deaths drop to lowest level in six decades

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: June 26, 2014


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

Law enforcement officer fatalities dropped to the lowest level in six decades in 2013 and firearms-related officer deaths haven’t been this low since the 1800s, according to preliminary data in an annual research bulletin published by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide in 2013, the fewest number of fatalities since 1959 when 110 officers died. Total deaths were down from 2012 when 121 officers made the ultimate sacrifice.

Traffic-related incidents were the number one cause of officer fatalities in 2013, with 46 deaths. However, firearms-related deaths declined significantly at 33 deaths — a 33 percent drop from 2012 and the lowest number since 1887 when 27 officers were shot to death. Thirty-two officers died due to other causes, including 14 who suffered heart attacks on the job.

Two years ago, officer fatalities spiked to 169, which led to new initiatives aimed at promoting law enforcement safety including: an increasing number of agencies requiring officers to wear bullet-resistant vests; formation of the National Officer Safety and Wellness Group by the U.S. Department of Justice; and the VALOR program, launched by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to prevent violence against officers through training and help officers survive violent encounters when they do occur. Since 2011, all categories of officer fatalities have dropped 34 percent and firearms-related deaths have declined 54 percent.

Data as of December 29, 2013:
• Traffic-related deaths declined 4 percent in 2013 (46) compared to 2012 (48), including 31 officers killed in auto crashes, 11 who were struck outside their vehicles, and four in motorcycle crashes.
• The 33 firearms-related fatalities include seven officers who were shot in ambush attacks; six while responding to a disturbance call; five who were conducting an investigation; three while responding to domestic disturbance calls; three during traffic stops; three while responding to robberies in progress; and three while attempting to arrest a suspect. Two officers were inadvertently shot and killed and one was killed during a burglary in progress.
• Of the 32 officers who died of other causes, 18 were caused by job-related illnesses; six fell to their death or died as a result of a fall; two drowned while attempting to assist victims during a flash flood; two were stabbed to death; one was killed in a helicopter crash; one in a boat-related accident; one by an explosive device; and one officer was electrocuted.
• During the past year, more officers were killed in Texas (13) than any other state; followed by California (10); Mississippi and New York (7); and Arkansas (6).
• Nine officers killed in 2013 served with federal law enforcement agencies; nine with correctional agencies; and four were female.

“The only good news is zero deaths, but this very significant drop in law enforcement fatalities the past two years is extremely encouraging,” said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “Our organization, in partnership with others, is working hard to create a new culture of safety in law enforcement that no longer accepts deaths and injuries as an unavoidable part of the job. This year’s officer fatality report is strong evidence that this intensified effort to promote law enforcement safety is making a difference.”

The statistics released by the NLEOMF are based on preliminary data compiled and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2014. For a complete copy of the preliminary report on 2013 law enforcement fatalities, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/ResearchBulletin.

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