Assault Injuries Rising for Law Enforcement Officers, NIOSH Reports

From 2003 to 2014, approximately 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency departments nationwide for nonfatal injuries. The leading cause of work-related injury in this group of workers was assault and other violent acts, which accounted for 35 percent of injuries treated in emergency departments.

A NIOSH study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concludes that nonfatal injuries from work-related assaults are rising among law enforcement officers. According to the agency, the study is the first national investigation of nonfatal injuries from assaults and other unintentional injuries, including accidental falls and motor vehicle crashes.

Authors Hope M. Tiesman, Ph.D.; Melody Gwilliam, MPH; Srinivas Konda, MPH; Jeff Rojek, Ph.D.; and Suzanne Marsh, MPA, of the NIOSH Division of Safety Research in Morgantown, W.Va., and the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at El Paso, noted that although law enforcement is recognized as a particularly dangerous occupation, little information has been available on trends in nonfatal work-related injuries among law enforcement officers.

Using information from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System – Occupational Supplement on nonfatal injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003–2014, they calculated rates of nonfatal injury using numbers from the Current Population Survey. They found compared to other workers, law enforcement officers were injured on the job three times as often.

From 2003 to 2014, approximately 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency departments nationwide for nonfatal injuries. The leading cause of work-related injury in this group of workers was assault and other violent acts, which accounted for 35 percent of injuries treated in emergency departments. Furthermore, from 2003 to 2011, assault-related injuries increased by almost 10 percent, although the rates for other injuries remained stable.

After assault and other violent acts, the second-leading cause of injury was bodily reactions and exertion from running or other repetitive motions, which caused 15 percent of the injuries, followed by transportation incidents at 14 percent. Younger officers age 21-24 were more likely to be injured than older officers; the rates of nonfatal injury were similar among men and women.

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