2007 has been a deadly year for law enforcement in the United States, with 186 officers killed nationwide as of December 26, according to preliminary statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.).
When compared with 2006, when 145 officers died, officer fatalities rose more than 28 percent this year. Outside of 2001, when 239 officers died -- 72 in the September 11 terrorist attacks -- 2007 is the deadliest year for American law enforcement since 1989, the preliminary report found.
The number of officers killed by gunfire and in traffic-related incidents both increased in 2007. So far this year, 69 officers have been shot and killed, up 33 percent from 2006, when there were 52 fatal shootings.
"In 2007, our nation's law enforcement officers were confronted with more brazen, heavily armed and cold-blooded criminals than they have faced in many years," said Craig W. Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the NLEOMF, a non-profit organization that researches officer fatalities and maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC. "As this tragic year comes to a close, every American owes our law enforcement officers an incredible measure of gratitude for their bravery in working to protect the rest of us," Mr. Floyd added.
Law enforcement officers killed in traffic-related incidents increased from 73 in 2006 to a record high of 81 this year. 2007 is the 10th year in a row in which traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of officer deaths nationwide. Of the 81 traffic-related deaths this year, 60 officers died in automobile crashes and six in motorcycle crashes, and 15 were struck by automobiles while outside their own vehicles.
Among other causes of deaths, 18 officers died from physical causes, four drowned, three fell to their deaths and two were killed by falling objects. Three officers died in aircraft accidents, and one was killed in a boating accident.
"The surviving families of these fallen officers will be struggling for many months trying to adjust to life without their officer," said Jean Hill, National President of C.O.P.S., which provides resources to assist in rebuilding the lives of surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty. "There will be hundreds more survivors needing our services due to the increased numbers of deaths, and C.O.P.S. will strive to help these families rebuild their shattered lives," she continued.
Forty-one states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced officer fatalities during 2007. Texas, with 22, had the most officer deaths, followed by Florida (16), New York (12), California (11) and Louisiana (9).
The officers killed in 2007 were, on average, 39 years old and had 11.4 years in law enforcement. Seven of the officers killed this year were women. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 21 of this year's officer fatalities, up from 17 in 2006.
After peaking at 277 in 1974, officer fatalities have generally declined over the past three decades, with the exception of the increase in 2001.
The statistics released by the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. are preliminary data and do not represent a final list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2008. The preliminary report, "Law Enforcement Officer Deaths, 2007," is available at http://www.nleomf.org. For more information about C.O.P.S., visit http://www.nationalcops.org.