The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2018 increased 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 2018 Preliminary End-of-Year Law Enforcement Fatalities Report that 144 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty over the past year, representing a 12 percent increase over the 129 officers who died in the line of duty in 2017.
Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 52 officers in 2018, a 13 percent increase compared to the 46 officers killed in firearms-related incidents in 2017. Of the 52 officer deaths, 14 occurred while officers were attempting to place an individual under arrest. Eight officers were killed while conducting an investigative activity. Six officers were killed responding to domestic disturbance and public disturbance calls, each totaling 12. Five officers were ambushed in 2018, a 50 percent decrease over 2017. Four officers were shot and killed conducting traffic stops. Two officers were killed while serving warrants and two officers were killed while handling or transporting prisoners. Two officers were inadvertently shot by other law enforcement personnel. One officer was killed while responding to a burglary; one was killed during a tactical situation and one was killed while responding to a call for an armed suicidal suspect.
Handguns were the leading type of firearm used against law enforcement in 2018. Of the 52 officer fatalities, 31 officers were shot and killed with a handgun; four were disarmed and shot with their own duty weapons.
Traffic-related fatalities increased nine percent from 2017 with 50 officer deaths. Of those, 32 officers were killed in crashes. Fourteen officers were struck while outside of their vehicle, a 56 percent increase over the nine officers struck and killed in 2017. Four officers were killed in motorcycle crashes.
Of the 32 vehicle crashes, 16 were single-vehicle crashes, a 14 percent increase over the previous year when 14 officers died in single-vehicle crashes. Seven of those single-vehicle crashes involved officers who were responding to a call for service or as backup to another officer at the time of the crash.
The number of officer deaths from other causes also rose in 2018. Forty-two officers died of causes other than firearms- or traffic-related incidents, a 14 percent increase over the 37 who died in 2017. Job-related illnesses such as heart attacks or strokes were the cause of 18 officer deaths, a 17 percent increase over the 21 who died in 2017. Of those 42 deaths, 15 officers died due to cancers related to search and recovery efforts after the attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001. Four officers drowned. three were beaten to death and two officers were struck by a train.
Texas, Florida, California, and New York had the highest number of officer fatalities with 11 each. North Carolina had seven deaths; South Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana each had five. Two territorial officers and nine federal officers also died in 2018. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia did not lose an officer in 2018.
Of the 2018 fallen officers, 134 were male and 10 were female. The average age was 41 years with an average length of 12 years of service.
“The rising number of law enforcement officer deaths in 2018 is disappointing news after a decline in 2017,” declared National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Craig W. Floyd. “Sadly this reminds us that public safety is a dangerous job and can come at a very steep price. We must never take the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers for granted, and we must remember the families of the fallen who are left behind.”
There are currently 21,541 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. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 1930 when 307 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The last time officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was 1944.