WASHINGTON — The number of law enforcement officers who died performing their duties in the U.S. declined by about 20 percent in 2012 after rising the two previous years, a nonprofit organization reported Thursday.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said in a report that 127 federal, state and local officers have died so far from injuries suffered on the job. The majority of officers who died were either shot or were victims of traffic accidents, figures show.
City and county police officers made up most of the victims, but the list also includes a prison guard in Indiana who suffered a heart attack while responding to an unruly inmate, a deputy sheriff in Missouri who was fatally shot while responding to an emergency call about an unconscious person and a Coast Guard officer killed off the California coast while pursuing a vessel suspected of smuggling drugs.
Texas had the highest number of law enforcement fatalities at 10, followed by Georgia (eight) and Colorado and Maryland (six each). Twelve states and the District of Columbia have not had any officers killed this year. Thirteen of the officers who died were women.
There have been 49 firearms-related deaths this year, including 15 ambush attacks, as of Thursday. That’s down from the 72 killed by gunfire last year.
The toll is on pace to be the lowest since 2009, when 122 officers died, and would be only the second year since 1960 that the number was below 130.
The decline is heartening after two straight “alarming” years and may suggest that departments, though battered by budget cuts, are placing more emphasis on safety, said Craig Floyd, the chairman and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
Other causes of death included job-related illnesses, stabbings and helicopter crashes. Two Atlanta police officers died in a helicopter crash in November during a search for a missing boy.