The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) released preliminary statistics today about law enforcement related deaths as Arizona Department of Public Safety officers were involved in a high speed chase with a suspect on I-17 through Phoenix and then up to the high country.  The Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA) members know far too well the losses and injuries that have been sustained to Department of Public Safety employees throughout the year.

“We (officers) know what we signed up for,” states Sgt. Jimmy Chavez, President of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association.  “However, this year has been particularly harder than years past for our fellow DPS employees and their families”  DPS employees experienced a traumatic year after losing Officer Chris Marano during a high-speed chase (the only Arizona fatality sited by NLEOMF), along with a tragic semi-truck accident involving Officer Kenneth Henscheid, who is still in critical condition and Doug Georgianni who was shot to death in a photo radar van.

As of yesterday, 124 law enforcement officers had died in the line of duty from all causes, a 7 percent reduction from the 133 fatalities in 2008, according to preliminary data compiled by NLEOMF. The last time officer fatalities were this low was in 1959, when there were 108 line-of-duty deaths.  Fewer U.S. law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2009 than in any year in the past half century – an encouraging trend tempered by a disturbing increase in the number of officers who were killed by gunfire, many of them in brutal, ambush-style attacks.

“I’m afraid, with continued budget cuts, that we might see the number increase in years to come,” added Chavez.

Other preliminary findings from NLEOMF’s report include the following:

  • 2000-2009 was one of the safer decades in recent law enforcement history, although it also saw the deadliest single day: September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed in the terrorist attacks on America. An average of 162 officers a year died in the 2000s, compared with 160 a year in 1990s, 190 in the 1980s, and 228 in the 1970s, which remains the deadliest decade for U.S. law enforcement.
  • Almost 23 percent of the firearms-related deaths in 2009 – 11 in all – involved officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. Unprovoked ambush attacks claimed another six officers’ lives.
  • After reaching an all-time high of 83 deaths in 2007, the number of law enforcement officers killed in traffic-related incidents has fallen each of the last two years. The preliminary total of 56 traffic-related deaths in 2009 was 21 percent lower than the 2008 figure and was the lowest annual number of traffic deaths since 1996.
  • Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico experienced officer fatalities during 2009. For the third year in a row, Texas (11), Florida (9) and California (8) had the most fatalities – a combined total of 28, or nearly 23 percent of the national total for 2009.
  • Six federal law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2009, including three special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration who died in a helicopter crash in October while conducting counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan.
  • The average age of the officers killed in 2009 was 39; the average length of their law enforcement service was 10.5 years.
  • All but one of the officers killed during 2009 were men; the one female officer was Tina Griswold, one of the four Lakewood (WA) officers ambushed in a local coffee shop on November 29. By contrast, nearly 10 percent of the officers killed in all of 2008 were women, the highest percentage in history.

The statistics released by the NLEOMF are preliminary and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for 2009. The report, “Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: Preliminary 2009,” is available at www.LawMemorial.org/ResearchBulletin.

Article written by/or information provided by AHPA

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