Police Officer Deaths Increase Dramatically in 2016 and 2017
There are two sources for data as to police officer deaths, one from the FBI (summarized below), and another from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (also below).
The FBI documents a 61 percent increase in officers feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2016.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund states that police officer fatalities increased 42 percent in 2017 with a 69 percent increase in traffic-related deaths.
Law enforcement is an immensely dangerous job; police officers have one of the highest rates of injury of all U.S. professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On average, U.S. police officers suffer from about 57,300 assaults per year, and more than 15,000 of those lead to injuries. From 2004 to 2013, an average of 151 police officers have died on the job each year. The correctional officer rate of injury is 36 times that of the typical American worker. CBS News.
We should note that correctional officers, firefighters, and paramedics are also on the list of top ten most dangerous jobs.
There has been an intense national debate for the last two years regarding American policing and publicity over alleged improper shootings and misuse of force. While those discussions are right and proper in a free society, we also need to acknowledge the danger every police officer accepts whenever they proactively engage or respond.
It’s also clear that all first responders are at risk.
Unless you have been in these situations, it’s almost impossible to know the fear and confusion associated with highly emotional individuals where drug and firearm use is common.
Negative media coverage has affected officers willingness to meaningly engage. Crime in America-Police
Many believe the lack of officer engagement is a contributing factor to the national increase in violent crime. Crime in America-Crime Statistics
Whatever your feelings about American law enforcement, most acknowledge that it’s a dangerous profession, and with the negative publicity, fewer seem willing to do the job.
FBI Releases 2016 Preliminary Statistics for Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty
Preliminary statistics released by the FBI show that 66 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2016. This is an increase of 61 percent when compared with the 41 officers killed in 2015.
By region, 30 officers died as a result of criminal acts that occurred in the South, 17 officers in the West, 13 officers in the Midwest, four in the Northeast, and two in Puerto Rico.
At the time the 66 law enforcement officers were fatally wounded:
- 17 were ambushed (entrapment/premeditation);
- 13 were answering disturbance calls (seven were domestic disturbance calls);
- nine were investigating suspicious persons/circumstances;
- six were engaged in tactical situations;
- five were performing investigative activities;
- four were conducting traffic pursuits/stops;
- three were investigating drug-related matters;
- three were victims of unprovoked attacks;
- one was answering a robbery in progress call or pursuing a robbery suspect(s);
- one was answering a burglary in progress call or pursuing a burglary suspect(s);
- four were attempting other arrests.
Offenders used firearms in 62 of the 66 felonious deaths. These included 37 incidents with handguns, 24 incidents with rifles, and one incident with a shotgun. Four victim officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons.
Of the 66 officers killed, 50 were confirmed to be wearing body armor at the times of the incidents. Fourteen of the 66 slain officers fired their service weapons, and 10 officers attempted to fire their weapons. Three victim officers had their weapons stolen; one officer was killed with his own weapon.
The 66 victim officers died from injuries sustained in 56 separate incidents. Fifty-four of those incidents have been cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
In 2016, an additional 52 officers were killed in line-of-duty accidents, which are officer deaths that were found not to be willful and intentional. This is an increase of 16 percent when compared with the 45 officers who were accidentally killed in 2015. By region, 24 officers died from accidents in the South, 12 in the Midwest, nine in the West, five in the Northeast, and two in Puerto Rico.
Twenty-six of the officers died as a result of automobile accidents, 12 were struck by vehicles, and seven were fatally injured in motorcycle accidents. Three officers died in accidental shootings, two victim officers drowned, one died in an aircraft accident, and one victim officer was fatally injured when thrown from a horse.
Of the 26 officers who died due to automobile accidents, eight were wearing seatbelts. Eleven officers were not wearing seatbelts (five of whom were partially or totally ejected from the vehicles), and seatbelt use was not reported for seven of the officers who were killed in automobile accidents.
Final statistics and complete details will be available in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s publication, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2016, which will be published on the FBI website in the fall.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Preliminary 2017 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities
– Leonard A. Sipes Jr.