The number of U.S. law enforcement fatalities spiked by 37 percent in 2010 — an alarming increase that follows two years of declining deaths among our nation's policing professionals, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).
During the year, 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled by NLEOMF. The 117 officer fatalities in 2009 had marked a 50-year low.
Fifty-nine officers have been shot and killed during the past year, which is a 20 percent increase over the 49 killed by gunfire in 2009. Ten of the officers shot to death this year were killed in separate multiple-death incidents in Fresno, Calif.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; West Memphis, Ark., Tampa, Fla.; and Hoonah, Alaska.
"A more brazen, cold-blooded criminal element is on the prowl in America, and they don't think twice about killing a cop," according to Craig W. Floyd, chairman of NLEOMF.
"Our law enforcement officers are being asked to do more today with less, and it is putting their lives at risk," according to Floyd. "In addition to their conventional crimefighting responsibilities, our law officers are on the front lines in the war against terror here at home. There are fewer officers on the street and other precious resources such as training and equipment dollars are being cut as a result of the economic downturn."
Traffic-related incidents remained the top cause of death among our nation's law enforcement officers for the thirteenth consecutive year. Seventy-three officers have been killed in traffic-related incidents this year, compared with 51 in 2009, representing a 43 percent increase. Of the 73 traffic-related deaths this year, 50 occurred during automobile crashes, 16 officers were struck and killed while outside of their own vehicles, six died in motorcycle crashes, and one bike patrol officer was struck by a vehicle.
In addition to the officers killed by firearms or in traffic-related incidents, 19 officers died as a result of job-related illnesses; two were beaten; two drowned; two officers suffered fatal falls; two died in aircraft crashes; and one officer died in a boating accident.
Geographically, more officers were killed in Texas (18) than in any other state, followed by California (11), Illinois (10), Florida (9), and Georgia (7).
With five officers each, the California Highway Patrol and Chicago Police Department topped the list. Eleven of the officers killed served with federal law enforcement agencies. Six female officers died compared with only one in 2009. On average, the officers who died in 2010 were 41 years old and had served for 12 years.
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 assistance to surviving family members and loved ones of officers killed in the line of duty.
"Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) is extremely concerned and saddened that there has been such a drastic increase in deaths of law enforcement officers in 2010," according to Linda Moon Gregory, national president of C.O.P.S.
"In 2009, the number was lower than in previous years, and we were hopeful that we were seeing a positive trend; however, that has not been the case," she added. "Our number of family survivors and affected co-workers unfortunately has also increased."
The statistics were released in the report, "Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: Preliminary 2010," and don't represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for 2010.