The number of police officers who died in the line of duty dropped to its lowest level in four years in 2017, thanks to advances in safety gear and training, Russia Today reported.
As of Thursday, 128 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2017, a decrease of 10 percent from last year, according to a preliminary report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) released Thursday.
The total number of officers killed in the line of duty this year is the lowest since 2013, when 117 officers were killed. The number of officer fatalities had been on the rise for the past three consecutive years, reaching a peak of 143 fatalities in 2016.
“After three consecutive years of rising deaths in the law enforcement profession, this year’s decline offered some encouraging news,” Craig Floyd, NLEOMF CEO, said in a statement.
The number of officers killed in the line of duty has been on the decline since the ‘70s, when there was an average of 234 fatalities reported annually.
Firearms-related law enforcement fatalities decreased in 2017. Forty-four officers were shot and killed in 2017 compared to 66 in 2016, a 33 percent decrease. Preliminary 2017 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report: https://t.co/CFv490Qexu. pic.twitter.com/BYSRywxlwD— NLEOMF (@NLEOMF) December 28, 2017
The most recent peak was 242 officers killed while on duty in 2001. The spike was most likely the result of officers responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
Traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of deaths this year, claiming the lives of 47 officers, a 13% drop from the 54 traffic-related fatalities reported last year.
Firearm-related deaths were the second leading cause of deaths, with 44 officers shot and killed on the job this year, a decrease of 33% from the 66 fatalities last year.
According to preliminary data, 128 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty this year, decreasing 10 percent over the 143 officers killed in 2016.— NLEOMF (@NLEOMF) December 28, 2017
Read the Preliminary 2017 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report: https://t.co/CFv4917Pp2 pic.twitter.com/YfOjS6N2Q8
Handguns were the leading type of firearm used in fatal shootings of law enforcement, with 29 officers killed by sidearms.
The average number of firearm-related fatalities by decade decreased from 127 in the ‘70s to 53 in the 2010s. Floyd said the drop is most likely due to advances in safety gear, such as bullet-proof vests and de-escalation training.
“In my 33 years doing this, I've never seen the amount of awareness given to officer safety and wellness,” Floyd said. “That's definitely been paying off and will continue to help make law enforcement a significantly safer profession.”
The average age of an officer killed in the line of duty this year was 42. On average, officers left behind two children. The state with the highest number of officer deaths was Texas, with 14 fatalities. A total of 14 states and the District of Columbia did not suffer any officer fatalities in 2017.
Randy Sutton, a former police lieutenant and spokesman for Blue Lives Matter, attributes the decrease in police fatalities to the so-called “Ferguson effect,” referring to nationwide protests triggered by the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in 2014.
“There's a saying in law enforcement: You can't get in trouble for the car stop you don't make,” Sutton said. “They don't want to be the next Ferguson, the next officer burned on the stake.”
However, the number of people killed by officers increased from 963 in 2016 to 971 this year, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.
But even though the number of on duty deaths continues to decline, the unprecedented militarization of local police departments continues.
Over the summer, President Donald Trump signed an executive order clearing the way for local police in America to receive military gear such as grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, and armored vehicles. Trump and the DOJ have reversed former President Barack Obama’s restrictions that allows local police departments to receive surplus military equipment.
Which begs the question: Why do they need this?