NLEOMF report details mid-year 2019 LODD statistics
Sixty law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty during the first six months of 2019 – a 35% decrease over the same period last year
Police leaders must carefully review all sources of death and injury to officers to make intelligent decisions about training, protective gear, deployment and tactics.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has released its officer deaths report for the first half of 2019. One statistic jumps out to the reader: the 60 federal, state and local law enforcement line of duty deaths decreased 35% over the previous year’s halfway mark.
death by firearm
Death by firearm decreased by 13% representing the cause of death of 27 officers, most of whom were killed by gunfire responding to robbery calls, attempting vehicle stops, conducting an arrest, or in ambushes, with four officers murdered in each of those circumstances, three in domestic violence calls.
Rifles were used to kill five officers, handguns were the instrument of death in 11 cases, with 11 cases where the type of firearm was unknown.
Continuing the downward trend in police deaths, traffic-related deaths decreased by 25%, claiming 21 lives.
Despite move over legislation passed in 43 states, 11 of those officers were struck and killed while outside of their vehicles, a higher percentage of the category of vehicle related deaths than the first half of 2018.
Adding to the incremental decreases from 2018 is the number of crash-related police deaths in which officers were driving, which decreased 25% with 21 crash deaths in the first half of 2019. Single-vehicle crashes reduced by 60% compared to last year’s report. The 2019 figures to date are lower than the previous 10-year average, in the wake of continuous rise in traffic crash deaths since the 1960s.
Eight officers died of job-related illness, including two related to 9/11.
The 60 officers counted as killed in the line of duty in the newly released report include five female officers. Those who gave their lives collectively left 120 children behind.
Municipalities employ the greatest percentage of law enforcement officers in the United States and therefor constitute the greatest number of its members killed in the line of duty at 24, followed by county law enforcement, state employed officers and federal officers. Half of the states and the District of Columbia escaped the first six months of 2019 with no line of duty deaths. Texas and Illinois lead this year’s officer fatalities with six each.
While most officers would likely guess Friday or Saturday, hours close to midnight, and the heat of August as most deadly, we know that February 2019 was the deadliest month so far this year, Wednesday was the deadliest day of the week in 2018, and the hour of 0800 to 0859 was the most lethal hour last year. Officers were most likely to be shot during robbery calls, pursuits, and by ambush.
Knowing the most prevalent assignment, age, years of service, time of day and day of the week is interesting but not instructive to individual officers engaging in survival strategies. Any call at any time can turn deadly.
There are other entities recording officer deaths in addition to the NLEOMF. The FBI, which excludes corrections officer and natural causes such as cardiac events, and the Officer Down Memorial Page, which includes correctional officers, will show different totals for annual officer deaths.
How to use LODD statistics to improve officer safety
The fluctuations in the annual statistics on officer fatalities ultimately tells us of the unpredictability of the profession. The measure of survival or death also depends on factors too hidden to score. Quality emergency medical care, the national mood, staffing, training, and an unknown algorithm of events and circumstances have an effect on mortality for officers.
The NLEOMF report’s photos and personal stories of slain officers makes the numbers more personal, but because most agencies rarely face the reality of an officer from their ranks losing their life in a line of duty death, these statistics may seem distant. For leaders, trainers and policy makers, the process of identifying risks for police officers is a vital challenge. This data and the essential review of injuries, accidents and LEO near misses from their own local experience must be used to inform officer-safety related funding and grant opportunities, adjust policy and training guidelines, and improve equipment and other assets to reduce harm to officers.
It is safe to say that this report and any other tally of officer deaths and injuries tell us the lessons we’ve already learned and need to apply daily: keep training, wear your vest and slow down.