Law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose slightly during 2015, with 124 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers killed in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled and released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) in their 2015 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report.
The 124 officer fatalities in 2015 represented a four percent increase from the 119 officers who died in the line of duty in 2014. Of the 124 officers who died this year, 52 died in traffic-related incidents, 42 were killed by gunfire and 30 died as a result of other causes.
The number of officers killed by firearms in 2015 (42) was 14 percent lower than the 49 who died as a result of gunfire in 2014. Traffic stops resulted in seven of those shooting deaths, more than any other category of felonious fatalities in 2015. Two of those officers, Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate of the Hattiesburg (MS) Police Department, were gunned down in a traffic stop they conducted on May 9.
Ambush attacks against officers were the second leading cause of shooting deaths in 2015, accounting for six fatalities. Among them was Harris County (TX) Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth, who was shot 15 times in an unprovoked attack after filling his marked cruiser up at a local gas station on August 28.
Fifty-two officers were killed in traffic-related incidents this past year, which was six percent higher than the 49 who died on roadways in 2014. Traffic-related incidents have been the leading cause of officer deaths in 15 of the last 20 years.
Thirty officers died due to other causes in 2015, including 24 who suffered from job-related illnesses—mostly heart attacks—while performing their duties. Also included among those 24 are four officers who died of illnesses they contracted as a result of their rescue and recovery work following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There are more than 20,000 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1791. Over the past decade (2005-2014) the average annual number of officer fatalities has been 145. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 1930 when 300 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The last time officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was 1944.
“Each year as we issue this fatality report, we are reminded of the vital service and supreme sacrifice given by our nation’s law enforcement officers,” declared NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “There has been a lot of criticism and second-guessing directed at law enforcement this past year, but we must never forget that 124 officers gave up their lives for our safety and protection. Another 900,000 officers put their lives on the line every day. We owe all of those men and women a huge debt of gratitude.”
The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the NLEOMF and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial later this year. For a complete copy of the preliminary report on 2015 law enforcement fatalities, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.
Key Data as of December 28, 2015:
- Traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of officer fatalities in 2015, with 52. This was a six percent increase over the 49 traffic-related deaths in 2014. Of these 49 officers, 35 were killed in automobile crashes, 11 officers were struck and killed outside of their vehicle and six officers were killed in motorcycle crashes.
- Firearms-related incidents were the second-leading cause of officer deaths in 2015, with 42. This was a 14 percent decrease from the 49 officers shot and killed in 2014.
- Traffic stops resulted in seven deaths, the leading felonious cause of deaths among officers in 2015. The other leading categories of felonious deaths in 2015 were ambushes (6), investigating suspicious persons or activities (5), disturbance calls (5), attempting arrests (4), inadvertent shootings (3), robbery (3), unknown (3), transporting suspects (2), burglary (2), investigative activity (1), and tactical (1).
- Of the 30 officers who died due to other causes this year 24 were caused by job-related illnesses; two officers died when they fell to their death; one officer drowned; one officer was electrocuted; one officer was beaten to death; and one officer died in an aircraft crash.
- During the past year, more officers were killed in Texas (12) than any other state; followed by Georgia (11); Louisiana (9); and New York and, California, with six each.
- Eight agencies experienced more than one officer fatality this year, including the Puerto Rico Police Department (5); Texas Department of Criminal Justice (3); Colorado State Patrol (2); Harris County (TX) Sheriff’s Office (2); Hattiesburg (MS) Police Department (2); Kentucky State Police (2); New Jersey State Police (2); and New York City (NY) Police Department (2).
- Four correctional officers were killed in the line of duty in 2015.
- Six of the fallen officers served with territorial agencies; three served with federal agencies; and two served with tribal agencies.
- Nine of the 124 fatalities were female officers, which was more than twice as many as 2014.
- On average, the officers who died in the line of duty in 2015 were 41 years old and had served for 12 years.
Photo credit: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund