The number of police fatalities caused by firearms made 2011 one of the deadliest years in recent history for U.S. law enforcement, says the Associated Press. Some 173 officers died in the line of duty, up 13 percent from 153 the year before, says the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The group reported that 68 federal, state and local officers were killed by gunfire in 2011, a 15 percent jump from last year when 59 were killed. It marks the first time in 14 years that firearms fatalities were higher than traffic-related deaths. The data shows that 64 officers died in traffic accidents, down from the 71 killed in 2010.
Craig Floyd, the group’s chairman, blamed the rise on budget cuts to public safety departments. He cited surveys by police groups that showed many cut back on training and delay upgrading equipment, and referenced a Department of Justice report issued in October that said an estimated 10,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies have been laid off within the past year. It’s the second year in a row the number of officers killed in the line of duty has grown. In 2009, the death toll dipped to 122 in a 50-year-low that encouraged police groups even though the year seemed to be an aberration.