Fewer Police Fatalities Reported in 2008
By: Gerri L Elder
According to a new report, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty dropped in 2008, and the number of officers killed by gunfire reached the lowest level in more than 50 years.
CNN reported that two groups, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and Concerns of Police Survivors, wrote that 2008 was one of the safest years in decades for law enforcement officers in the U.S. The groups said preliminary statistics show that 140 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty during 2008. Of those deaths, 54 were intentional. During 2007, the groups noted the deaths of 181 officers, with 73 of those intentional.
During 2008, 41 of the slain officers were killed by gunfire. In 2007, 68 of the deceased officers were killed in firearms-related incidents. This marks a reduction of 40 percent and makes 2008 the year with the lowest incidence of officers killed by gunfire since 1956.
Craig W. Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, said in a statement accompanying the report that law enforcement took action after a devastating year in 2007 and “renewed emphasis on officer safety training, equipment and procedures.”
According to Floyd, there were many factors in the reduction of law enforcement deaths during 2008. He said a general decline in violent crime and tougher criminal justice system helped.
He also mentioned that better training and equipment as well as increased use of less lethal weapons, number of officers wearing bullet-resistant vests and awareness of life threatening situations by officers contributed to the improvements.
Floyd also noted that many criminals have easy access to firearms, which makes the dramatic reduction in firearms-related deaths even more incredible.
The groups’ findings differ from the figures reported by the FBI. According to the FBI, 140 officers were killed in the line of duty during 2007, with 57 intentional deaths.
The difference in statistics can be attributed to different criteria. The FBI only includes officers “working in an official capacity” at the time of death in the statistics. The FBI has not yet released a report for 2008. It is expected in the spring.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund may include officers intentionally killed, even if he or she was not working in an official capacity at the time of death. The group also includes the deaths of officers who die in the line of duty from heart attacks while pursuing suspects.
The groups’ report also included some bad news. During 2008, 15 female officers were killed in the line of duty. That figure equals the record high of 2002 and marks the first time that more than 1 in 10 officers killed in a year were female.
Also troubling, the number of officers struck and killed in traffic accidents increased in 2008 despite new laws and safety and prevention initiatives.