Officers killed while on duty increased drastically, by nearly 40%, in 2021. According to FBI statistics, 129 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2021. Of these, 73 officers died as a result of felonious acts and 56 officers died in accidents.
The deaths of the 73 officers feloniously killed in 2021 marked an increase of 27 when compared to the 46 officers who were killed as a result of criminal acts in 2020. The 73 felonious deaths occurred in 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
The 5-year and 10-year comparisons show an increase of 27 felonious deaths when compared with the 2017 figure (46 officers) and an increase of 24 deaths when compared with 2012 data (49 officers).
The average age of the officers who were feloniously killed in 2021 was 39 years old. They had served in law enforcement for an average of 12 years at the times of the fatal incidents. The majority of the officers killed were white males. The report indicates 68 were male and five were female. Sixty were white and nine were black/African American. The race of four officers who died was not reported.
Nearly one third of the officers were killed in unprovoked attacks – 24 of the 73. Eight officers were ambushed, eight more died while involved in pursuits, and nine officers died as a result of investigative/enforcement activities. Seven other officers died responding to disorders or disturbances and six were killed while involved in tactical situations.
Offenders used firearms to kill 61 of the 73 officers. Of the officers killed by firearms, 15 were slain with handguns, 11 with rifles, and two with shotguns. For the large part, the types of firearms were unknown or not reported. That was the case in 33 of the deaths. In addition, six officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons and four officers were killed by the offender’s use of personal weapons (hand, fists, feet, etc.)
The largest number of felonious deaths were reported in the South, where 44 officers were killed. Thirteen died in the West, 12 in the Midwest, and four in Puerto Rico. The Northeast reported no felonious deaths of officers in 2021.
During 2021, 56 officers were killed accidentally while on duty. That is an increase over the 46 officers killed in the prior year, 2020. The leading cause of accidental death of officers was motor vehicle crashes, which claimed 32 officers. Twenty officers died after being struck by vehicles while out on foot. Four officers drowned.
The largest number of accidental deaths occurred in the South, which recorded 26 deaths compared to 12 in the West, nine in the Midwest, seven in the Northeast, and one in Puerto Rico.
Comprehensive data tables about these incidents and brief narratives describing the fatal attacks were released this week in the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) portion on the FBI’s Law Enforcement Data Explorer.