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Police Fatalities Have Dropped Sharply Since The 1970s

Photo by James Mitchell.
Photo by James Mitchell.
By Carimah Townes
A new report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) found that the number of firearm-related police officer deaths in 2014 is below the decade average — and that the rate of these deaths has been trending downward since the 1970s. Nevertheless, several advocates and news outlets seized upon a one-year rise in the number of police shootings as evidence of a broader trend.

CREDIT: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Of the 126 cops who died in the line of duty in 2014, the leading cause of those deaths were firearms, which killed 50 officers. Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, but the good news is that this figure is below the decade average: 53. Between 2000 and 2009, the average was 57. Indeed, that average has been in decline since 1973, when 156 cops were killed by guns.
RELATED STORY: USA Today Wants You to Think Killings of Police Are on the Rise — In Fact, It's Way Down

2014, however, does follow a year that saw fewer officers killed in the line of duty by guns than any other year on record. Last year, 31 officers were shot and killed — a 38 percent decrease from 2012. The number of gun-related fatalities actually dropped to a 126-year low. Nevertheless, as the NLEOMF data indicates, the overall number of deaths in 2014 is consistent with a general downward trend (the spike in deaths in 2001 results in part from the attacks on September 11. Seventy-two officers were killed that day.)

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