Pandemic Leading Cause of Officer Deaths in 2021: Report

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Photo courtesy National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund

COVID was the leading cause of law enforcement deaths in 2021, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

In its preliminary report on police fatalities for the previous year, (NLEOMF) found that as of December 31, 2021, 458 federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers died in the line-of-duty in 2021—a 55 percent increase from the 295 officers killed during the same period last year/

“Preliminary reports demonstrate that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has claimed more law enforcement lives than any single category in this report,” the NLEOMF report found.

Some 301 deaths were directly attributable to the pandemic, and the organization said the final number was likely to be higher.

“Law enforcement officers nationwide continue to be exposed to the Covid-19 virus in the course of their daily assignments; therefore, the number of line-of-duty deaths is sadly ever-increasing,” the NLEOMF said.

Firearms-related fatalities were the second leading cause of law enforcement deaths in 2021, with a total of 62 being killed by firearms, representing a 38 percent increase over the same period last year.

Some 19 of the officers killed by firearms were killed in ambush-style attacks, a significant increase over only six such attacks in 2020 and the leading circumstance of firearms fatalities.

Overall, 84 officers died from felonious assaults, including four who were beaten to death and and three who were stabbed. Meanwhile, a dramatic increase in traffic-related fatalities in 2021 is also cause for concern for law enforcement agencies nationwide as “struck-by fatalities,” in which an officer is hit and killed by vehicles while working along roadways, have increased by an extraordinary 93 percent over last year, adding to the total of 58 officer deaths due to general traffic-related causes and reflecting a 38 percent increase compared to the 42 deaths during the same period last year.

Of the total 458 officer deaths recorded, 417 were male and 41 were female. Officer suicide deaths were notably not recorded.

Despite the year-over-year increase, the figures show that the number of officer fatalities has been significantly declining over the past decades.

The average toll of police deaths due to gunfire in the 2020s was 54.  In the 1970s it was 128; and in 1980s, the average was  87—even down from the 2000s, when it was 57.

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