Police Officer Deaths Surged In 2021, Report Shows
The Baltimore Police Department Honor Guard renders a salute during the funeral services for Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley onJanuary 11, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland.
SCOTT SERIO/AFP via Getty Images

The number of fatalities among police officers in the United States, as well as killings via gunfire, increased significantly last year, according to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

COVID-19 proved to be the biggest culprit of deaths. “Preliminary data shows that some 301 officer fatalities have been identified as caused by Covid this year, and this number appears to increase almost daily,” the report stated. “Covid-19 related fatalities continue to be the single highest cause of law enforcement deaths occurring in 2021.” Other referenced causes of death include strokes, heart attacks, and 9/11-related illnesses.

There were 458 federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement deaths in 2021, marking a 55% increase from 2020, the report showed. The rate of officers killed by means of firearms increased 36%, and a total of 84 officers were victims of “felonious assaults,” relative to 2020.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also noted in its report that this “is the highest total line-of-duty officer deaths since 1930 when there were 312 fatalities.” Nineteen officers fell victim to “ambush-style attacks,” whereas only six died in this way in 2020.

Handguns were used in the vast majority of fatal shootings. There were 62 cases and 32 involved handguns. Eight involved a rifle, four involved a shotgun, and one officer was killed with his own weapon.

October is noted in the memorial report as the deadliest month on record of 2021. Indeed, eight of the 62 firearm-related deaths occurred then. The lowest-recorded month for firearm fatalities is noted as June, when there were two deaths.

Another issue of concern is traffic-related fatalities. There were 58 this year and 42 last year. Compared to 2020, there has been a 38% increase in officers dying from single-vehicle crashes, vehicle collisions, motorcycle crashes, and “struck-by” incidents on roadways. Most notably, struck-by incidents surged by 93% over the last year.

“Compared to the average number of traffic-related fatalities per decade, 2021 is significantly higher than the past 10-year average,” the report noted.

In terms of all states, Texas is noted to have experienced the most officer fatalities, with 84 deaths. The report outlined other states that fared poorly:

Florida had the second-highest number with 52 officer deaths, and Georgia experienced 39 officer deaths. California had 24 officer deaths, North Carolina had 21, and Tennessee had 18. In addition, 45 federal officers, 7 Territorial officers, and 3 tribal officers died in the line of duty this year. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia did not lose an officer this year.

Across the United States, law enforcement were defunded in cities after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. This resulted in many recanting this policy after unrest, while staffing shortages have become a major point of concern in the police force.

U.S. cities have also experienced a dramatic spike in murder rates. Chicago, for example, witnessed its highest homicide rate in 25 years. Philadelphia also recorded its deadliest homicide year on record, with 562 people being killed.


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