Law enforcement line-of-duty deaths rose 20 percent during first half of 2009
Multiple-death shootings, rise in traffic-related deaths contribute to increase; fatalities still remain low when compared with recent years
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WASHINGTON — After reaching a nearly 50-year low in 2008, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty jumped 20 percent during the first six months of 2009. Still, officer fatalities in the United States remain low when compared with mid-year totals in recent history, according to a new report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.).
Preliminary statistics compiled by the NLEOMF indicate that 66 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty between January 1 and June 30, 2009, compared with 55 officer deaths during the first six months of 2008. A total of 133 officers died in the line of duty in all of 2008, the lowest annual total since 1960.
Even with this year's increase, the preliminary 2009 figure was the second lowest mid-year total since 1965, when there were also 55 fatalities. The 2009 total was 13 percent lower than the average mid-year fatality count over the previous 10 years, which was 76.
"While it is encouraging that officer fatalities remain comparatively low, the 2009 figures do present some cause for concern," said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. "Officers continue to face serious threats from armed offenders who don't think twice about opening fire on law enforcement. That was tragically illustrated by the horrific multiple-death incidents this year in Oakland, Pittsburgh and Okaloosa County, Florida," he said.
"Those dangers, coupled with the fact that far too many law enforcement officers are dying on our roadways in traffic-related incidents, many of which involve drunk drivers, show that we still have a long way to go in ensuring that our officers can do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible," Mr. Floyd added.
The number of officers shot and killed rose slightly this year, from 20 in the first half of 2008 to 22 in the first six months of 2009. This year's figure includes nine officers who were gunned down in three separate incidents that occurred within a five-week period this spring. Four Oakland (CA) Police officers were killed March 21; three officers from Pittsburgh (PA) were fatally shot April 4; and two deputies with the Okaloosa County (FL) Sheriff's Office were gunned down April 25.
"With every law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, names must be engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the membership of surviving families and affected co-workers seeking support through Concerns of Police Survivors regrettably grows. Each year, more and more family and co-worker survivors look to C.O.P.S. for assistance to rebuild their shattered lives," said C.O.P.S. National President Jennifer Thacker.
"While my heart aches each time a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, I find solace to know 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.," added Mrs. Thacker. Her husband, Investigator Brandon Thacker of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was shot and killed in the line of duty in April 1998.
Other findings from the report include the following:
* The number of officers killed in traffic-related incidents increased 17 percent during the first six months of 2009, from 30 to 35. Traffic-related incidents -- automobile and motorcycle crashes and instances in which officers are struck while outside their police vehicles -- remain the leading cause of death among law enforcement officers in the United States, a trend that began 12 years ago. At least six traffic-related deaths this year have involved drunk drivers.
* 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.
* Twenty-four states experienced at least one law enforcement fatality during the first six months of 2009. Florida had seven fatalities; California, Pennsylvania and Texas had six each. Three federal law enforcement officers also died this year.
* All 66 officers killed during the first half of 2009 were men. By contrast, nearly 10 percent of the officers killed in all of 2008 were women, the highest percentage in history.
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 2009. The report, "Law Enforcement Officer Deaths, Mid-Year 2009 Report," is available at www.nleomf.org/TheMemorial/Facts/2009MidYearReport.pdf.
About the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers and to promoting officer safety. The NLEOMF maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, which contains the names of 18,661 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The Memorial Fund is now working to create the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibitions, historical artifacts and extensive educational programming. For more information, visit www.LawMemorial.org.