In 2022, 226 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), showing a significant drop over 2021 — and much of the decrease is attributed to the dramatic reduction in deaths from COVID-19.
Last year, 70 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty as a result of contracting COVID-19, an 83% drop, compared to the 405 officers killed in 2021. Despite these steep reductions, COVID-19 remains the number one cause of law enforcement deaths in 2022.
"While America's law enforcement officers are still battling the deadly effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in such overall deaths, likely attributed to reduced infection rates and the broad availability and use of vaccinations," the new report by the NLEOMF indicated.
In total, 226 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2021, according to data surveying federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement and released Wednesday. Of those, 64 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2022, the same number killed by firearms in 2021.
"This continues a disturbing trend of an increase in firearms related deaths compared to the average number of officers killed by gunfire each year in the prior decade," the report indicated.
"Although the numbers remain the same in 2022 as in 2021, the impact can be seen when you compare this decade to the prior decade," said Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. "If you look at 2010 [compared] to 2020, we're up 21% in firearms related fatalities within law enforcement. Ferranto added that the increase will be a focus for the organization, which develops officer safety and wellness programs designed to educate the over 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide on best practices.
Currently, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund does not include in its statistics officers who died by suicide, despite mounting evidence of work-related PTSD among law enforcement.
For its part, the FBI began collecting information last year for a new database intended to track the growing suicide rate within the nation's law enforcement ranks.
In November, President Biden signed into law the Public Safety Officer Support Act, expanding death and disability benefits to include law enforcement who die by suicide or are disabled by traumatic experiences.
According to the nonprofit organization Blue HELP, 180 officers died by suicide in 2022. Ferranto said that while NLEOMF supports the law's passage, the organization has yet to add the names of officers who have died by suicide to its memorial.
"Our stringent review process is probably stricter than any other organization in the country, and we do not include suicides as line of duty deaths. With that being said, we are looking at the newly signed legislation and we are having conversations around it."
The new data follows the commemoration of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Monday, and comes just days after President Biden honored fourteen individuals, including law enforcement officers, with the Presidential Citizens Medals for safeguarding the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
In a White House ceremony, Friday, Mr. Biden granted the award to Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, former Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone, and Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman. The late Capitol Police officer, who suffered multiple strokes and died the day after responding to the Capitol riot, also received the medal posthumously.
"I urge our workforce all the time to do their best to block out the noise and stay focused on the mission—the people we do the work for and the people we do the work with," FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote in an op-ed, last week, demanding "respect for cops."
"If we're going to continue to attract dedicated public servants to this calling, we all need to be more outspoken in our support of the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to keep others safe," Wray added.
"To demonize law enforcement and to think that is not going to have a direct impact on our communities is an absolute mistake," Ferranto stated. "Our government leaders need to stand behind the men and women who have chosen this profession."
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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