WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of U.S. police officers who died in
the line of duty is up 43 percent so far this year, according to an
organization that honors fallen law enforcement officials.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says that if
the trend continues, 2010 could become one of the deadliest years
for U.S. police agencies in two decades.
The fund was to release preliminary data Wednesday showing that
87 officers died in the line of duty between Jan. 1 and June 30.
That's up sharply from 61 officers killed during the first six
months of last year.
The 2010 deaths were spread across 36 states and Puerto Rico,
with California, Texas and Florida showing the most fatalities.
Other states on the list included Maryland, where a state trooper
was fatally shot June 11, and Virginia. Five officers working for
federal agencies also died in various states.
Firearm and traffic deaths jumped in the last six months,
compared with the same period in 2009.
Last year, overall officer fatalities had reached their lowest
level in five decades.
"We were hoping to see those numbers continue to go down,"
said Kevin P. Morison, a fund spokesman. "It points to the dangers
officers continue to face."
Almost half the deaths came from car and motorcycle crashes and
officers being hit outside their vehicles. Five officers who were
struck on the road died during a three-week period last month in
California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Of the 31 officers killed by gunfire, six died in "cluster
killings" - three separate shootings that targeted multiple
Eugene O'Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay
College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the number of officer
fatalities fluctuates from year to year. However, he said he has
noticed an "alarming frequency" of people targeting police.
"There has been a spate of particularly brutal and senseless
attacks on the police," said O'Donnell, a former police officer
and prosecutor in New York. "It seems to me, an unprecedented
level of disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers
all over the place."
He said a rise in mental health problems and scathing criticism
of police, such as the comments found on some blogs, could be
fueling the brazenness and disregard for authority.
John Firman, director of research at the Alexandria, Va.-based
International Association of Chiefs of Police, said his group is
working to reduce rampant gun violence to which officers find
In addition, the association is working with the memorial fund,
the FBI and other groups to create a Center for the Prevention of
Violence Against Police to study the issue in depth. "We think
this is awfully urgent," Firman said.
The memorial fund released the report with Concerns of Police
Survivors Inc., a group that helps families of fallen officers. The
fund adds the names of officers killed in the line of duty to its
monument in Washington.