A total of 69 American law enforcement officers were shot and killed during 2007, based on preliminary information received by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). This represents a staggering 33-percent increase over the 52 officers killed by gunfire in 2006, and the second highest total over the last decade (there were 72 officers shot and killed in 2001).
Historically, though, the number of officers killed by gunfire has actually decreased rather dramatically over the past 30 years, according to records kept by the NLEOMF. In the 1970s, there were an average of 127 officers shot and killed each year (second only to the 145 officers killed each year in shootings during the 1920s). The 1980s saw a dip in the number of officers killed by firearms to 87 per year, followed by a further decrease in the 1990s to 68 officers killed by gunfire each year.
So far in the 2000s, an average of 59 officers have died in shootings each year. A major reason for the declining number of officers killed by firearms has been the increasing use of bullet-resistant vests, which have been credited with saving the lives of more than 3,000 officers over the last 20 years, according to the IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors Club.
Dating back to the first law enforcement fatality recorded in 1792, when New York City Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith was shot and killed while attempting an arrest, there have been a total of 9,929 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers killed by gunfire (includes the preliminary figures for 2007). This is roughly 55 percent of the 18,107 line-of-duty deaths documented by the NLEOMF. To put this figure in some perspective, the next highest cause of death among law enforcement officers is automobile crashes, which have accounted for 2,659 officer fatalities throughout history.
For more information visit www.nleomf.org.