Police Fatalities: Line of Duty Deaths Increase 37 Percent in 2010

VIDEO: “Streets of Chicago downright mean.” Chicago Scenes of shootouts and arrests: 2010 was a particularly deadly year for law enforcement. Nationwide Deaths in the line of duty jumped 37 percent to 160 from 117 the year before, according to numbers as of Tuesday compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

A total of 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 12 months, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). This represents a dramatic increase over the 117 officer fatalities in 2009, which marked a 50-year low. The 50-year high was recorded in 1974 with 279 police officers reported killed.

Fifty-nine officers have been shot and killed during the past year, which is a 20 percent increase over the 49 killed by gunfire in 2009. Ten of the officers shot to death this year were killed in separate multiple-death incidents in Fresno (CA), San Juan (PR), West Memphis (AR), Tampa (FL) and Hoonah (AK). “A more brazen, cold-blooded criminal element is on the prowl in America, and they don’t think twice about killing a cop,” observed NLEOMF Chairman Craig W. Floyd.

“Our law enforcement officers are being asked to do more today with less, and it is putting their lives at risk,” declared Mr. Floyd. “In addition to their conventional crimefighting responsibilities, our law officers are on the front lines in the war against terror here at home. Yet, there are fewer officers on the street and other precious resources, such as training and equipment dollars, are also being cut as a result of the economic downturn,” he explained.

Traffic-related incidents remained the number one cause of death among our nation’s law enforcement officers for the 13th consecutive year. Seventy-three officers have been killed in traffic-related incidents this year, compared to 51 in 2009, representing a 43 percent increase. Of the 73 traffic-related deaths this year, 50 occurred during automobile crashes, 16 officers were struck and killed while outside of their own vehicles, six died in motorcycle crashes and one bike patrol officer was struck by a vehicle.

We’re asking our officers to do more than ever, and we’re giving them less resources to get the job done, and its putting their lives at risk … we also have a more cold-blooded, brazen criminal element prowling the streets of America today … We seem to have deteriorating values in this country.

— Craig W. Floyd, NLEOMF Chairman

In addition to the officers killed by firearms or in traffic-related incidents, 19 officers died as a result of job-related illnesses, two were beaten, two drowned, two officers suffered fatal falls, two died in aircraft crashes and one officer died in a boating accident.

During the past year, more officers were killed in Texas, 18, than in any other state; followed by California with 11; Illinois with 10; Florida with nine; and Georgia with seven. The two law enforcement agencies with the most deaths in 2010 were the California Highway Patrol and the Chicago (IL) Police Department, each with five. Eleven of the officers killed nationwide in 2010 served with federal law enforcement agencies. Six female officers died in 2010, compared to only one in 2009. On average, the officers who died in 2010 were 41 years old and had served for 12 years.

The preliminary 2010 law enforcement fatality data were released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a non-profit organization that provides critical assistance to the surviving family members and loved ones of officers killed in the line of duty.

“Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) is extremely concerned and saddened that there has been such a drastic increase in deaths of law enforcement officers in 2010,” stated C.O.P.S. National President Linda Moon Gregory.

“In 2009 the number was lower than in previous years, and we were hopeful that we were seeing a positive trend; however, that has not been the case. Our number of family survivors and affected co-workers unfortunately has also increased,” she added. Her brother, Officer James Homer Moon from the Jacksonville (FL) Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed in the line of duty in September 1971 and Mrs. Gregory’s family continues to deal with parole issues related to her brother’s death.

The statistics released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and Concerns of Police Survivors 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 2010.

Floyd said in Chicago, for example, gang-related violence is a problem with police officers are being targeted. Police officers and former gang members point to the increase in deaths due to the change in structure of gangs which has led to the increase in violence among the city’s 100,000 gang members. In Chicago, more than half of the homicides committed in 2010 involved gangs.

Where we are most successful in pursuing offenders and reducing homicides is when we have the assistance of the community. The code of silence which affects too many communities and too many neighborhoods in our city and across the
country hampers all of us.

— Mike Master — Chicago Police Chief of Staff

Are gangs in the suburbs, too? Yes. Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Gaylord Street Gang, La Familia, Latin Kings, Satan’s Disciples, and Vice Lords are noted as residents and/or as contacted by police in crimes and traffic stops.

The report, “Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: Preliminary 2010,” is available at www.LawMemorial.org/ResearchBulletin.