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2020 was Deadliest Year for Law Enforcement Officers in Decades

The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2020 increased 96% over the previous year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that has long tracked officer fatalities.

The Memorial Fund announced in its proprietary 2020 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report that as of December 31, 2020, 264 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty (LOD) over the past year, representing a 96% increase over the 135 officers who died in the line of duty in 2019. In the category of “Other” causes, which includes Covid-19 deaths, the number of fatalities is up 300% over 2019.

“As the leading authority in line-of-duty deaths, this time of year always reminds us of the sacrifice of law enforcement and the importance of our mission to honor the fallen, tell the story of American law enforcement, and make it safer for those who serve. The year 2020 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1974 due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto. “We’ve been tracking LOD fatalities for 30 years, and the loss of even one law enforcement life is difficult. We stand together with the nation in honoring these brave men and women.”

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Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 48 officers in 2020, a 6% decrease compared to the 51 officers killed in firearms-related incidents in 2019. Of the 48 officer deaths, eleven were investigating a suspicious person or activity, seven were killed responding to domestic disturbance calls, six deaths each were attempting an arrest and ambush attacks on officers, three were in tactical situations, and three others were responding to various disturbance calls. Four officers died responding to a robbery or burglary in-progress call while three were feloniously killed during traffic stops. Two officers were killed during the year serving warrants, two others were killed by inadvertent gunfire and one officer was killed by firearms responding to a mental health call.

Traffic-related fatalities increased 2% with 44 deaths in 2020 compared to 43 deaths in 2019. Of those, 18 were automobile crashes involving a collision with another vehicle, eight were single vehicle crashes, 15 were struck while on the side of the road, and three involved a motorcycle crash.

Most significant in the 2020 Fatalities Report are the number of officer deaths in the category of “other” causes, which increased 300% over the number of deaths from other causes in 2019, due to officers who died from contracting the coronavirus in the line of duty. Excluding Covid-19 deaths, 27 officers died from other causes. Of the 27 other causes, 22 were health related incidents, including heart attacks and injuries suffered during the 9/11 terrorists attacks, three officers drowned while executing their duties, one died in a helicopter crash, and one was beaten to death.

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Texas had the highest number of officer deaths with 48, followed by the state of New York with 19. Sixteen officers died in Florida and thirteen each were killed in the line of duty in Georgia and Louisiana. Twelve lost their lives in Pennsylvania while eleven officers in both California and New Jersey made the ultimate sacrifice. Twenty-one federal officers, five territorial officers, three tribal officers and one military officer also died in the line-of-duty during this calendar year. 13 states did not lose an officer this year.

246 fallen officers were male and 18 were female. The average age of the fallen officers was 47 years, with 17 years of service. On average, each officer left behind two children.

There are currently 22,217 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 1786. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 1930 when 307 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The last year officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was 1944.

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The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2021.

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