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2021 sets record for deadliest year in Law Enforcement history
Nov 01, 2023
Posted by: jgomori Posted date: January 13, 2022

COVID-19 was leading cause of deaths

Excerpted from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Line-of-duty Law Enforcement fatalities in 2021 increased by 55 percent over 2020 and set a record for the most line-of-duty deaths in a single year, according to data provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

As of Dec. 31, 2021, 458 federal, state, county, municipal, military, campus, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty during the past year, according to NLEOMF’s 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report.

“This time of year always reminds us of the sacrifice of law enforcement and the importance of our mission to honor the fallen, tell the story of American law enforcement, and make it safer for those who serve. The year 2021 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1930 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increases in traffic fatalities and firearms ambushes,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto.

In 2020, 295 officers died in the line of duty. Prior to 2021, 1930 held the record for line-of-duty law enforcement fatalities at 312.

Most significant in the 2021 Fatalities Report are the number of officer deaths in the category of “other” causes, which increased 63 percent when compared to 2020’s other causes. Of those 338 deaths in 2021, 301 were officers who died from contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.

The 37 remaining officers who died from other causes include 25 who perished from other health-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, strokes, and 9/11-related illnesses. There were also four officers who were beaten to death; four officers who drowned; two were stabbed to death; one was killed when their patrol vehicle was swept away by floodwaters; and one was killed in a tornado.

Firearms-related fatalities were the second highest cause of deaths and also were up 38 percent in 2021 over the previous year, claiming the lives of 61 officers compared to 45 officers in 2020. The primary cause of firearms fatalities were officers killed in ambush-style attacks. In 2021, 19 officers were killed in ambush attacks, which is a significant increase over the six ambush attack deaths in 2020.

Traffic-related fatalities followed with 58 deaths in 2021 compared to 42 deaths in 2020, a 38 percent increase. The leading cause of traffic fatalities were “struck by” deaths at 27, which is a 93 percent increase over 2020 “struck by” deaths.

The states with the greatest number of law enforcement line-of-duty fatalities are: Texas with the most officer deaths at 84, followed by Florida with 52 officer deaths; Georgia with 39 officer deaths; California had 24 officer deaths; North Carolina had 21 officer fatalities and Tennessee had the sixth highest number of officer fatalities at 18.

The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2022.

Click on the links below for the complete 2021 End of Year Preliminary Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report and NLEOMF’s 2021 Solutions Addendum “Keeping Names Off the Wall”.

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