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December 2009: eNewsletter

 

2009 was indeed a tale of two trends in U.S. law enforcement fatalities.

Fewer officers died in the line-of-duty this year (124 as of yesterday) —the lowest total deaths since 1959. However, the number of officers who were shot and killed surged 23 percent this year, driven in part by five separate incidents in which multiple officers were gunned down by one offender.

Those are among the key findings of a new report released today by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors.

2009 Preliminary Officer Fatality Report

"This year’s overall, 7 percent reduction in law enforcement deaths was driven largely by a steep drop in the number of officers killed in traffic-related incidents,” reported NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “However, that bit of good news was overshadowed by an alarming surge in the number of officers killed by gunfire.”

Highlights of the report are summarized below. We invite you to read the full Research Bulletin on our website at www.LawMemorial.org/ResearchBulletin

Multiple Fatality Shootings Shock Law Enforcement

Trends in firearms-related fatalities: 1959-2009
Nearly one-third of this year’s 48 firearms-related fatalities—15 deaths in all—occurred in just five incidents in which more than one officer was shot by a single gunman.

These tragedies took place in Lakewood, WA (4 deaths); Oakland, CA (4); Pittsburgh, PA (3); Okaloosa County, FL (2), and Seminole County, OK (2). 2009 saw the most multiple-fatality law enforcement deaths since 1981.

 
"Many of the cold-blooded career criminals our officers confront each and every day do not think twice about assaulting or killing a cop.”
— Craig W. Floyd 

Responding to domestic disturbance calls proved particularly dangerous for law enforcement in 2009. Almost 23 percent of this year’s gunfire deaths—a total of 11, including the three officers gunned down in Pittsburgh in April—involved officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. Unprovoked ambush attacks claimed another six lives, including the four Lakewood officers executed in a coffee shop in November.

“It’s Never Over for Us”: A Survivor’s Perspective

Jennifer Thacker knows all too well that behind all the facts and figures on officer fatalities are family members, partners and communities that are left without their loved ones, colleagues and protectors. Her husband, Investigator Brandon Thacker of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was shot and killed in the line of duty in April 1998. Today, Mrs. Thacker serves as National President of C.O.P.S.
Jennifer Thacker

 
"I am personally learning that it’s never over for us, as my husband’s killer was released from prison just yesterday [December 28, 2009].”
— Jennifer Thacker 

“Even 11 years later, my family, Brandon’s co-workers and I are in need of the continued support from C.O.P.S.,” she said. “And C.O.P.S. continues to keep the promises made to law enforcement survivors, providing support and resources to rebuild their shattered lives today and years later.”

A Profile of 2009’s Fallen Heroes

2009 Fatalities Map
The law enforcement heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in 2009 came from 35 states and Puerto Rico. For the third year in a row, Texas, Florida and California had the most fatalities—a combined figure of 28, or 23 percent of the national total.

Six federal law enforcement officers died in 2009, including three special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration who were killed in an October helicopter crash in Afghanistan while conducting counter-narcotics operations.

The average age of the officers killed this year was 39; they averaged 10.5 years of law enforcement service. Interestingly, all but one of the officers killed this year were men; the one female officer was Tina Griswold, one of the four Lakewood (WA) officers ambushed in November. By contrast, nearly 10 percent of the officers killed in all of 2008 were women, the highest percentage in history.

Our Commitment to Officer Safety

The Memorial Fund is committed to compiling and sharing information that promotes law enforcement safety, and we hope you find this information interesting and helpful.

Next week: Behind the encouraging news in traffic-related fatalities.

NLEOMF Research Team

 


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