The number of police officers killed by gunfire in 2008 dropped to its lowest level in more than 50 years, says a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund report quoted by USA Today. Forty-one officers were shot and killed in 2008, down 40 percent from 68 in 2007. That’s the lowest number since 1956, when 35 officers died from gunfire. The total number of officers who died in the line of duty – 140 – dropped 23 percent from 181 in 2007, one of the highest totals in two decades. The overall figure includes police killed in traffic fatalities and other accidents plus shooting deaths.
The high number of police deaths in 2007 led to a new emphasis on officer safety training and equipment, says Memorial Fund Chairman Craig Floyd. More officers are wearing body armor and using stun guns to protect themselves. Ed Nowicki of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association fears a tight economy and shrinking police budgets will force departments to cut back training. “The number of deaths in 2008 is nothing compared to the deaths in the late 1960s and 1970s,” he says. “It was much higher then. Better training and equipment have made a difference.” Philadelphia had four police fatalities. That was the most police deaths of any U.S. agency. Female officers for the first time accounted for more than 10 percent of officers killed in a single year. For the 11th straight year, more officers died from traffic-related incidents than any other cause.