Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report Released 2021 Was Deadliest Year for Law Enforcement Officers in History

The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2021 increased 55% over the previous year, according to preliminary data provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), the leading authority on officer fatalities.

NLEOMF announced in its official 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report that as of December 31, 2021, 458 federal, state, county, municipal, military, campus, tribal, and territorial officers died in the line of duty during the past year, representing a 55% increase over the 295 officers who died in the line of duty in 2020. In the category of “Other” causes, which includes 301 Covid-19-related deaths, the number of fatalities is 338, an increase of 63% over 2020’s line-of-duty fatalities in this category.

“This time of year always reminds us of the sacrifice of law enforcement and the importance of our mission to honor the fallen, tell the story of American law enforcement, and make it safer for those who serve. The year 2021 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1930 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and increases in traffic fatalities and firearms ambushes,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto.

Most significant in the 2021 Fatalities Report are the number of officer deaths in the category of “other” causes, which increased 63% over the number of deaths from other causes in 2020 due to officers who died from contracting Covid-19 in the line of duty.

In addition to the 301 Covid-19 deaths, 37 officers died from other causes, including 25 officers who died in the line of duty from health-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, strokes, and 9/11-related illnesses. In addition, 4 officers were beaten, and 4 officers drowned in 2021. There were 2 officers stabbed to death, 1 was killed when their patrol vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, and 1 was killed in a tornado.

Firearms-Related Fatalities

Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 62 officers in 2021, a 38% increase compared to the 45 officers killed in firearms-related incidents in 2020.

Of the 62 firearms fatalities:

  • 19 were ambushed and killed
  • 8 were investigating suspicious activities or persons
  • 7 were attempting an arrest
  • 7 were killed responding to domestic disturbance calls, which led to a tactical situation and an ambush
  • 7 were disturbance calls, which led to a tactical situation
  • 3 were killed during traffic enforcement, which led to an ambush
  • 3 were fatally shot responding to burglary or robbery in-progress calls
  • 3 involved drug-related investigations
  • 2 were killed during tactical encounters
  • 2 were inadvertently and accidentally shot and killed
  • 1 was killed during an encounter with a suicidal subject.

Traffic-Related FatalitieTraffic-related fatalities increased 38% with 58 deaths in 2021 compared to 42 deaths in 2020.

Of the 58 traffic-related deaths:

    • 19 were automobile crashes involving a collision with another vehicle or fixed object
    • 9 were single-vehicle crashes
    • 27 were struck-by fatalities
    • 3 officers have been killed in motorcycle crashes

Top 6 States with the Largest Number of Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities

  • Texas experienced the largest number of law enforcement officer fatalities of all U.S. states with 84 line-of-duty deaths
  • Florida had the second highest number with 52 officer deaths
  • Georgia had the third highest number with 39 officer deaths
  • California had the fourth highest number with 24 officer deaths
  • North Carolina had the fifth highest number with 21 officer deaths
  • Tennessee had the sixth highest number with 18 officer deaths

In addition, 45 federal officers, 7 territorial officers, and 3 tribal officers died in the line of duty this year. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia did not lose an officer this year.

There were 417 male officers killed in the line of duty, and 41 female officers. The average age of the fallen officers is 48, with 17 years of service. On average, officers left behind two children.

There are currently 22,611 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1786. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 1930 when 312 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty.

The statistics released are based on preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2022.

NLEOMF CEO Marcia Ferranto and Troy Anderson, Executive Director of Officer Safety and Wellness, addressed the public via Livestream at 8:00am Eastern today, January 11, about the findings. To watch the Livestream, tune into the NLEOMF Facebook page or watch on YouTube.

For a complete copy of the 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report, go to: LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.

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