After reaching a 50-year low in 2009, the number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty surged nearly 43 percent during the first six months of 2010, according to preliminary data released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). If the mid-year trend continues, 2010 could end up being one of the deadliest years for U.S. law enforcement in two decades.
Preliminary NLEOMF statistics show that 87 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty between Jan. 1 and June 30. That compares with 61 officers who were killed during the first six months of 2009, an increase of 42.6 percent.
By June 30, officer fatalities had already reached 75 percent of the total for all of 2009, which was 116. That represented the fewest line-of-duty deaths since 1959.
"It is certainly disheartening that last year's encouraging news on officer fatalities has not continued into 2010," said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. "These latest figures provide a grim reminder that, even with all of the safety improvements that have been achieved in recent decades, our law enforcement officers still face grave, life-threatening dangers each and every day."
He added, "As governments across the country face tighter and tighter budgets, we must ensure that critical officer safety measures such as training, equipment and personnel are not sacrificed. If our dedicated law enforcement officers are to continue to drive down crime, as they have done so successfully in recent years, then they must have the necessary resources to protect our communities and themselves."
All major categories of officer deaths rose sharply during the first half of 2010, according to the NLEOMF's preliminary data.
Firearm-related deaths increased 41 percent, from 22 during the first six months of 2009 to 31 in the first half of 2010. Six officers this year died in three separate multiple-fatality killings:
On Feb. 25, Fresno County (Calif.) Sheriff's Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier and Reedley (Calif.) Police Officer Javier Bejar were shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant on a suspected arsonist; Deputy Wahlenmaier died that day, and Officer Bejar succumbed to his injuries on March 1.
On May 20, Sgt. Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans of the West Memphis (Ark.) Police Department were gunned down following a traffic stop by two suspects armed with AK-47s.
On June 29, Tampa (Fla.) Police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab were shot at close range following a traffic stop by a suspect with an outstanding warrant.
Traffic-related fatalities were up 35 percent, from 31 at mid-year 2009 to 42 as of June 30 of this year. The 2010 total included 29 officers who died in automobile crashes, four killed in motorcycle crashes and nine who were struck and killed while outside their vehicles-all increases from 2009. Deaths from all other causes combined jumped 75 percent, from 8 to 14 as of June 30.
The preliminary 2010 law enforcement fatality data were released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a non-profit organization that provides critical assistance to the surviving family members and loved ones of officers killed in the line of duty.
The statistics released by the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. are preliminary and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for 2010. The report, "Law Enforcement Officer Deaths, Mid-Year 2010 Report," is available online.