The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty dropped sharply in 2017, marking the second-lowest toll in more than 50 years, says USA Today. As of Thursday, 128 officers have died in the line of duty this year, with 44 shot and killed. That’s down 10 percent from 2016, when 143 officers died, with 66 gunned down, according to data released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The only other year with fewer deaths in the past five decades was 2013, when 116 officers were killed.
Reasons for the drop could range from advanced safety gear such as bulletproof vests, better training, better relationships and reduced violence in communities — or just 2017 being an outlier, experts say. “It’s definitely a good sign but if it’s a trend, we’ll have to see,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina and a researcher on high-risk police activities. “We’re starting to see the impact of all this new training and equipment, and a shift because of the overall concern for officer safety.” While shootings played a big role, traffic accidents caused the largest number of deaths. Crashes killed 47 officers this year, down 15 percent from 2016. A number of factors — including enhanced policies that limit vehicle pursuits and speeding and the “move-over law,” which requires drivers to slow down and switch lanes when an officer is pulled over — could be behind the drop, experts say. Texas, as in previous years, tallied the highest number of law enforcement officers killed on the job with 14 deaths, followed by Florida and New York, both with nine deaths. Eight officers were killed in ambush-style attacks in 2017, a decrease from 21 such in 2016. The largest number of fatal shootings this year were related to domestic disturbances.