Fewer Police Officers Killed in Line of Duty in 2008

This year is ending as one of the safest years for U.S. law enforcement in decades. The number of officers killed in the line of duty fell sharply this year when compared with 2007, and officers killed by gunfire reached a 50-year low.

Based on their analysis of preliminary data, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) reported on Dec. 29 they found that 140 officers have died in the line of duty this year, a 23 percent reduction from the 2007 figure of 181. Other than 1996, when 139 officers were killed, 2008 represents the lowest year for officer fatalities since 1965, when 136 officers died in the line of duty.

This year's reduction includes a steep, 40 percent drop in the number of officers who were shot and killed, from 68 in 2007 to 41 in 2008. The last time firearms-related fatalities were this low was 1956, when there were 35 such deaths. The 2008 figure is 74 percent lower than the total for 1973, when a near-record high 156 law enforcement officers were shot and killed.

"2007 was a wake-up call for law enforcement in our country, and law enforcement executives, officers, associations and trainers clearly heeded the call, with a renewed emphasis on officer safety training, equipment and procedures," said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. "The reduction in firearms-related deaths is especially stunning, given the tremendous firepower possessed by so many criminals today. The fact that law enforcement has been able to drive down the crime rate, and do so with increased efficiency and safety, is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our officers."

In 2008, for the 11th year in a row, more law enforcement officers, 71, died in traffic-related incidents than from gunfire or any other single cause of death. Mirroring the nationwide drop in traffic fatalities among the general public this year, the number of officers killed in traffic incidents was down 14 percent from 2007. Last year, a record high 83 officers died on the nation's roadways. Of this year's traffic-related fatalities, 44 officers died in automobile crashes, 10 died in motorcycles crashes and 17 were struck and killed by other vehicles. The statistics released by the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. are preliminary and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2009.

The report, "Law Enforcement Officer Deaths, Preliminary 2008 Report," is available at www.nleomf.org. For information on the programs that Concerns of Police Survivors offers to the surviving families of America's fallen law enforcement officers, visit www.nationalcops.org.

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