The number of law enforcement officers killed in the United States soared by 44 percent during the first six months of 2007, and for the first time in three decades, more than 100 officer deaths were recorded by the halfway point of the year, according to preliminary statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).
The groups' preliminary data indicate 101 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers were killed between January 1, and June 30, an increase from the 70 officers who lost their lives during the same period of 2006. The last time the mid-year total was that high was 1978, when there were 105 officer deaths. By year-end that year, 213 officers had been killed in the line of duty. In 2006, the year-end total was 145.
Of the 101 officers killed during the first half of 2007, 45 died in traffic-related incidents. That's an increase of 36 percent from the 33 traffic-related fatalities during the first six months of 2006. This year's figure includes 35 officers who died in automobile crashes, six who were struck by automobiles while outside their own vehicles, and four who died in motorcycle crashes.
In addition, 39 officers were shot to death during the first six months of this year, compared with 27 during the same period of 2006, a jump of more than 44 percent. Also this year, seven officers succumbed to job-related illnesses, three drowned, two were killed in terrorist attacks, two died in aircraft accidents, and one officer each died from a bomb blast, a boating accident, and being struck by a falling object.
"Though still preliminary, these latest numbers are cause for alarm for two reasons," says Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the NLEOMF. "First, the recent trend of more officers being killed on our roadways in vehicle crashes and while outside their vehicles appears to continue unabated. Second, we are now seeing a spike in fatal shootings of officers as well—cases which have generally been declining in recent years."
Texas, with 13, experienced the most law enforcement officer fatalities during the first half of the year. North Carolina, which had no line-of-duty deaths during 2006, had eight fatalities during the first six months of this year. New York had six deaths; Florida, Georgia and South Carolina each had five. Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced officer fatalities during the first half of 2007. Ten of the fatalities involved members of federal law enforcement, including two military police officers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq.
"It is horrifying to realize that Concerns of Police Survivors may be seeing many more families than expected join our organization," says Jean Hill, national president of COPS. "And to realize that felonious deaths are on the rise is certainly sad because these are intentional acts of someone to kill an officer.
"The increased danger to our officers weighs heavy on the minds of all law enforcement survivors who are members of COPS. We know the pain their families will need to endure. But the COPS organization will be there for them for many years to come whenever they feel the need for compassionate support, just like COPS is there for the families who lost their loved ones in years past," Hill says.