Law enforcement fatalities in the United States increased 24 percent in 2014 to 126, and ambush-style attacks were the No. 1 cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth straight year, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The memorial fund report said 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year, compared to 102 last year. The number of officers killed by firearms in 2014 — 50 — is up 56 percent from the 32 killed last year.
Part of the dramatic increase can be attributed to the fact that line-of-duty deaths last year, at 102, had dropped to the lowest levels since 1944. The figure was down from 123 fatalities in 2012. Over the past decade, the average annual number of officer deaths has been 151, the NLEOMF report said. In 2011, officer fatalities were at 171, prompting a number of initiatives aimed at promoting safety.
Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, a figure that matched 2012 for the highest since 1995. Among those recorded this year were the recent shooting deaths of New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, which attracted national attention and contributed to tension between police and the city’s elected leaders.
“With the increasing number of ambush-style attacks against our officers, I am deeply concerned that a growing anti-government sentiment in America is influencing weak-minded individuals to launch violent assaults against the men and women working to enforce our laws and keep our nation safe,” NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd said.
The deaths of unarmed black men in altercations with white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, this year sparked protests across the country. Ismaaiyl Brinsley referenced those killings on social media before shooting a girlfriend near Baltimore and traveling to New York to kill the New York police officers on Dec. 20 before taking his own life.
During the past year, 49 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents — a 13 percent increase from 2013 — and 27 died due to other causes, including 24 who suffered from job-related illnesses like heart attacks while performing their duties, the report said.