It's 2010 - the start of a new year and a new decade. And a good time to look at the decade ahead, while also reflecting on the previous decade. It's also a good time to reflect upon what officer survival really means to us: surviving the dangers of the law enforcement profession, not becoming a casualty, and staying alive to fight another day.
By now, you've probably read that according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), 125 law enforcement officers were killed in 2009 - a six percent decline from 133 in 2008. 2009 also saw the lowest number of LEO line-of-duty deaths since 1959 (108). That's the good news.
The bad news is 49 LEOs were killed by gunfire in 2009 - up 26 percent from 2008 (38). Fifteen of these deaths happened in five multiple-fatality shootings: Oakland, Calif. (4); Pittsburgh, Pa. (3); Okaloosa County, Fla. (2); Seminole County, Okla. (2); and Lakewood, Wash. (4). I can't recall there being as many multiple-fatality LEO shootings in any single year specifically targeting LEOs. Might we be witnessing the start of a disturbing new trend or era? I certainly hope not.
The optimists cite the 49 gunfire deaths as a vast improvement - a whopping 69 percent reduction in LEO gunfire deaths from 156 in 1973. I should also point out that the 1970s was the deadliest decade in U.S. LE history with 2,276 deaths, an average of 228 deaths per year. This, compared to the decade just concluded, 1999 -2008, with 1640 deaths, for an average of 164 deaths per year - one death every 53 hours.
However, we know that whether it's 49 or 156 deaths in a year, or an average of 164 or 228 deaths, the death of even one law enforcement officer is one death too many. And our never-ending goal, our mission, should be to eliminate any and all LEO deaths. Impossible, you say? Maybe. But zero deaths is still our goal and mission that we must strive for each and every day we don the uniform and badge.
Here are more LEO statistics to think about:
- There are 900,000 LEOs in the U.S.
- The deadliest day in U.S. LE history was September 11, 2001 with 72 deaths.
- The deadliest year was 1930 with 282 deaths.
- The second deadliest year was 1974 with 278 deaths.
- A total of 18,661 U.S. LEOs have died (and counting).