A report released on Tuesday reveals that the annual number of police officers killed with guns has hit a 20-year high. The nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a group which records and monitors the number of officers killed each year, looked into the deaths of the 126 tribal, territorial, local and federal officers killed while on the job in 2014. Fifty of those deaths were the result of guns, which is a 56 percent increase from 2013, during which 32 officers were killed by gunfire.
Of the 126 police officers killed this year, 15 were due to ambush-style attacks. Although only five such attacks were reported in 2013, it has been since 1995 that 15 officers were killed this way.
In recent years, federal authorities have warned police to not focus solely on those who protest police actions, but to also be on alert for those who see the government as their enemy. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security alerted police of the danger represented to them by what they termed “domestic extremists.” The Baltimore County Chief of Police, Jim Johnsson, who also chairs the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, says that uniformed law enforcement officers are viewed as an easy-to-find representation of the government itself, which makes them easy targets for disgruntled citizens.
The second cause of officer deaths occurred as a result of traffic accidents, which claimed the lives of 49 cops. The nonprofit group which published the report includes in this number deaths resulting from motorcycle or automobile accidents as well as officers being struck while outside of their vehicle. According to spokesman Steve Groeninger, the actual number of law enforcement officers killed on the job has also risen by 24 percent, from 102 in 2013. This figure is lower than the average yearly totals since 2004. The record number of police officer deaths in one year is 156 in 1973. According to the fund, only three times between 1966 and 2007 did the number of deaths drop below 150. Since 2007 and including this year, the number has been below 150 in five of those years.
Although the numbers of police officers killed with guns increased 56 percent in 2014, the report says that the number of deaths is still a great deal lower than past records and remains below the yearly average of 55 police deaths in the past decade. In addition, the 2014 count is the same as that of 2012. The highest number of police officials killed by guns in the past decade was 73 in 2011.
The state in which the most officers died was California with 14. Texas followed with 11, while New York reported nine. Florida had six officers die while on duty, and Georgia reported five.
The sharp increase in the number of officers killed by guns while on duty in 2014 is followed by a year in which the FBI reported a total of 461 deaths, all deemed to be justifiable, caused by those working in law enforcement. The 2013 number is the highest total in the last 20 years, and the number may even be higher because not all local police departments report the number of deaths caused by officers.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Photo by Russell Mondy – License