Sixty-four officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2022, according to a preliminary annual report released Wednesday from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
That’s far below the number of firearms-related officer deaths 50 years ago. But the figure – the same as in 2021 – represents an increase over the average number of officer deaths in more recent history, according to the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, which warned of a “disturbing trend.”
Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the organization, said the data should prompt officer safety and wellness programs around the country to investigate why officers are dying by firearms at a greater rate today than they were 10 years ago.
What to know about police officers’ deaths
- From 2010 through the end of 2020, an average of 53 officers were killed each year in firearms-related incidents, the report said. The 64 deaths by gunfire in 2022 represents an increase of 21% over the average a decade ago.
- Overall, 226 federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year. That’s a 61% decline from 2021 “almost entirely” a result of fewer COVID-19 deaths, the report said.
- COVID-19 killed 70 officers and remained the leading cause of officer deaths in the line of duty, followed by firearms-related fatalities.
- Another 56 officers died in traffic-related incidents: They were either in collisions or struck while outside their cars, according to the report.
Law enforcement officers ambushed, shot by fellow officers
Of the dozens of officers fatally shot last year, 11 were ambushed, 10 were attempting to make an arrest, nine were handling domestic disputes, eight were investigating “suspicious circumstances or people,” six were killed making traffic stops, and five were killed handling disturbance calls, according to the report.
Four were “inadvertently or mistakenly” shot by fellow officers, three were shot while serving civil papers and responding to robbery calls, two were shot while serving a felony warrant, and one was shot “handling an inmate,” the report said. The two remaining deaths were “not clearly defined.”
California saw five firearms-related officer deaths – the most of any state – followed by four each in Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, the report said.
What’s contributing to the increased officer firearms deaths?
It’s not yet clear what’s contributing to the increased number of officer firearms deaths, according to Ferranto. She said her organization plans to compile more information to identify causes and possible solutions.
Report comes amid rising gun violence in the US
Firearms became the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2021, there were more than 47,000 firearms-related deaths, and firearms homicides and suicides rose to their highest rates in three decades, according to the most recent available CDC data.
Last year, a record number of children were injured or killed by gunfire. Official CDC data on total firearms-related deaths for 2022 has not been released.