In the past decade, 1,553 law enforcement officers died in reported duty deaths. This is an average of one duty death every 58 hours, or 150 duty deaths per year.

In order to analyze and examine these law enforcement duty deaths, data was culled from six different sources. The different ways each reporting organization categorizes these deaths made it challenging to compare and contrast.

However, the analysis offered in this article allows us to draw themes so that departments can implement strategic and tactical plans for their jurisdictions that can be applied in hopes of reducing the number of law enforcement duty deaths. Here are some interesting observations:

  • During the past decade, more felonious fatality incidents occurred on a Thursday. The fewest number of felonious fatality incidents occurred on Tuesday.
  • Historical records have New York City with the most duty deaths of any department, with 698. Texas has lost 1,678 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont with 22.

But one statistical category that is absent from reporting agencies is law enforcement suicides. This is a disservice to the profession and discipline not to include these officers in any meaningful analysis and reporting accurate duty deaths.

Officers who suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health diagnoses that lead to them taking their own life need to be studied. This could lead to the development of proactive intervention and treatment strategies to stop this tragedy from occurring. The misclassification of these incidents casts doubt on the accuracy of the actual duty death numbers.

The lack of credibility and validity with reporting law enforcement suicides makes it difficult to give confirmed numbers. However, taking a snapshot from 2008-12 on reported suicides, the average is 135 law enforcement suicides a year. This would place the number of law enforcement suicides for the past decade at approximately 1,350 officers.

These numbers are alarming, and to study the problem takes the courage to accurately report and categorize any law enforcement death. Timely and accurate reporting on law enforcement suicides needs to be established.

Until we have a credible and valid reporting system, we cannot fully understand the gravity of the problem. It is time to add two additional categories: on-duty suicide and off-duty suicide. Taking care of the fallen and learning lessons from their deaths makes the profession stronger.

2004-14 (to date) law enforcement deaths

  • Aircraft accidents: 25
  • Auto accidents (cruiser): 448
  • Assault: 9
  • Bicycle accidents: 3
  • Boating accidents: 3
  • Bomb-related incidents: 6
  • Drowned: 21
  • Electrocuted: 4
  • Fall: 23
  • Horse-related incidents: 1
  • Law enforcement-related illness: 192
  • Motorcycle crashes: 72
  • Poisoned: 1
  • Shot (all types of firearms): 568
  • Stabbed: 14
  • Strangled: 1
  • Struck by falling object: 4
  • Struck by train: 4
  • Struck by vehicle: 145
  • Terrorist attack: 10
  • Female law enforcement killed: 78
  • Officers killed while wearing body armor: 906
  • Alcohol and drug-related (suspects): 272

Data used in this article came from the following sources:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigations Uniform Crime Report
  • The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
  • Officer Down Memorial Page
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The Badge of Life