The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2020 increased 96 percent 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 Dec. 31, 2020, 264 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty (LOD) over the past year, representing a 96 percent 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 percent 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.”
Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 48 officers in 2020, a 6 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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.
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 13 each were killed in the line of duty in Georgia and Louisiana. Twelve lost their lives in Pennsylvania while 11 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. Thirteen states did not lose an officer this year.
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 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. For a complete copy of the 2020 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.
Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve. For more information about the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, visit LawMemorial.org. Authorized by Congress in 2000, the 57,000-square-foot National Law Enforcement Museum at the Motorola Solutions Foundation Building tells the story of American law enforcement by providing visitors a “walk in the shoes” experience along with educational journeys, immersive exhibitions, and insightful programs. For more information on the Law Enforcement Museum, visit LawEnforcementMuseum.org.