Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: 2009 Mid-Year Report

The NLEOMF has released its 2009 mid-year report on officer fatalities, and there is some cause for concern. After falling to their lowest level in nearly five decades last year, line-of-duty deaths among law enforcement officers nationwide rose 20 percent during the first six months of 2009.

Preliminary statistics compiled by the NLEOMF and released in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) show 66 officer deaths between January 1 and June 30, 2009, compared with 55 during the same period of 2008. All major categories of officer fatalities increased between 2008 and 2009:

  • Officers killed by gunfire rose slightly, from 20 in the first half of 2008 to 22 in the first six months of 2009.
  • The number of officers killed in traffic-related incidents increased 17 percent during the first six months of 2009, from 30 to 35.
  • Eight officers succumbed to job-related physical ailments during the first half of 2009, double the number during the first six months of 2008. In addition, one officer died in a helicopter crash this year.

Highlights of the report are summarized below. Read and comment on the report

Multiple-Death Incidents Continue to Increase

Fallen Law Enforcement OfficersThe mid-year increase in shooting fatalities was influenced by three multiple-death tragedies that claimed nine officers’ lives within a five-week span this spring. Four Oakland (CA) Police officers were gunned down March 21 by a wanted parolee. On April 4, three Pittsburgh (PA) Police officers were fatally shot by a 22-year-old gunman wearing a bullet-resistant vest and laying in wait for officers who responded to his mother’s call for help. And on April 25, two deputies with the Okaloosa County (FL) Sheriff’s Office were shot and killed while attempting to arrest a suspect in a domestic violence incident earlier in the day. In all of 2008, by contrast, there were just two such multiple-death incidents that killed four officers. “Officers continue to face serious threats from armed offenders who don’t think twice about opening fire on law enforcement,” said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. Read Craig Floyd’s recent article on multiple-death incidents.

Causes of law enforcement deaths: Mid-Year 2009

Traffic-Related Incidents Continue to Claim the Most Lives

Traffic-related incidents—automobile and motorcycle crashes and cases in which officers are struck while outside their police vehicles—remain the leading cause of death among law enforcement officers in the United States. If the mid-year trend continues, 2009 will be the 12th year in a row in which more officers die on our roadways than are killed by gunfire or any other single cause of death. Of the 35 traffic-related deaths during the first six months of 2009, seven officers were struck and killed while outside their vehicles and another 26 died in automobile crashes. At least six of the latter deaths involved drunk drivers, a continuing danger to law enforcement and citizens.

Trends in law enforcement officer deaths: Mid-Year 1959-2009

Trends in Officer Fatalities

Even with the 20 percent increase in officer fatalities, the 66 line-of-duty deaths during the first six months of 2009 represented the second lowest mid-year total since 1965. That year, there were 55 officer fatalities, the same six-month total as in 2008. By contrast, 101 officers died during the first six months of 2007. Over the previous 10 years (1999-2008), the average mid-year fatality count was 76, 13 percent higher than 2009’s preliminary figure. “While my heart aches each time a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, I find solace knowing that those families, affected co-workers, and agencies will be embraced in the law enforcement family, and they will be comforted with a lifetime of support during their grief walk through C.O.P.S.,” said Jennifer Thacker, C.O.P.S. National President.

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