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Line of Duty Officer Deaths Up 12 Percent in U.S. During 2018

December 27, 2018
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By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON -- A total of 144 law enforcement officers across the country, including two from Massachusetts, died in the line of duty in 2018, marking an uptick in fatalities over the previous year, according to a new report.

The preliminary report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, released Thursday, tracked increases in firearms-related and traffic-related fatalities among law enforcement officers, and in officer deaths from other causes including job-related illnesses.

Massachusetts, where Weymouth Officer Michael Chesna was shot while pursuing a suspect in July and Yarmouth Sgt. Sean Gannon was shot while serving a warrant in April, was one of 10 states with two officer fatalities.

There were no line-of-duty officer deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia, while Texas, Florida, California and New York experienced the largest number of officer fatalities, with 11 each.

According to the memorial fund, this year’s 144 deaths -- 134 men and 10 women -- represents a 12 percent increase over the 129 recorded in 2017.

“The rising number of law enforcement officer deaths in 2018 is disappointing news after a decline in 2017,” said Craig Floyd, the fund’s CEO. “Sadly this reminds us that public safety is a dangerous job and can come at a very steep price.”

The average age of the officer who died in the line of duty was 41, with an average of 12 years of service, according to the report. Each officer left behind an average of two children.

Fifty-two officers were killed in firearms-related incidents, with handguns the leading type of weapon, accounting for 31 deaths. The report said four officers were disarmed and shot with their own duty weapons, 14 were killed while attempting to arrest an individual, two were killed serving warrants, and two were inadvertently shot by other law enforcement personnel.

Thirty-two officers died in car crashes, including 16 single-vehicle crashes. Fourteen officers were struck while outside their vehicles.

Job-related illnesses, like heart attacks and strokes, were responsible for 18 deaths, and 15 officers died from cancers “related to search and recovery efforts after the attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001,” according to the memorial fund.

The last time there were fewer than 100 officer fatalities in one year was 1944, according to the fund, and 1930 was the deadliest year on record for law enforcement, with 307 line-of-duty fatalities.

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