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COVID-19 causes 2020 surge in officer line-of-duty fatalities

Posted by: jgomori Posted date: February 15, 2021

COVID-19 has caused a surge in law enforcement line-of-duty deaths nationwide. Fatalities increased 96 percent over the prior year, according to the 2020 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, 264 officers died in the line of duty compared to 135 in 2019. In the “Other” causes of death category, which includes COVID-19 deaths, fatalities increased 300 percent over 2019, according to the report.

So far, there were 145 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in 2020, however, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), a nonprofit which tracks officer deaths, has already identified a significant number of additional COVID-19 related fatalities which have yet to be confirmed.

The current number of total deaths in 2020 exceeds line-of-duty deaths dating back to 1974 when 280 officers made the ultimate sacrifice. The deadliest year on record, prior to NLEOMF tracking, was 1930 when 307 law enforcement officers were killed.

“The year 2020 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1974 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NLEOMF CEO Marcia Ferranto. “We’ve been tracking LOD fatalities for 30 years, and the loss of even one law enforcement life is difficult. We stand together with the nation in honoring these brave men and women.”

Firearms-related deaths decreased by 6 percent, with 48 officers killed during 2020 compared to 51 officers in 2019. Traffic-related fatalities increased 2 percent at 44 line-of-duty deaths in 2020 versus 43 in 2019.

By far, the most substantial increase in deaths was due to officers who contracted coronavirus in the line of duty with “other” causes of death spiking to 172. Excluding COVID-19 deaths, 27 officers died of other causes. Twenty-two died from health-related reasons including heart attacks and injuries related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three others died in drownings, one in a helicopter crash, and one officer was beaten to death.

States who lost the most officers in the line of duty were: Texas with 48; New York at 19 deaths; Florida lost 16 officers; Georgia and Louisiana each had 13 line-of-duty deaths; Pennsylvania lost 12 officers; and California and New Jersey had 11 deaths each. Thirteen states had no line-of-duty deaths. Twenty-one federal officers, five territorial officers, three tribal officers and one military officer also died in the line-of-duty.

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