More on-duty police officers died this year than last and again most deaths were traffic-related, according to a non-profit group focused on the safety of law enforcement personnel.
The number of fatalities rose to 124 in 2015, up from 119 last year, the figures compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show.
Fifty-two deaths were traffic-related — 35 officers died in automobile crashes and six in motorcycle crashes, while 11 were struck and killed outside their vehicles. Traffic-related deaths were the most prevalent in 15 of the last 20 years.
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“There has been a lot of criticism and second-guessing directed at law enforcement this past year, but we must never forget that 124 officers gave up their lives for our safety and protection,” the fund’s chairman, Craig W. Floyd, said in a statement.
Forty-two officers were shot to death, 14 percent fewer than last year. Seven of the shootings followed traffic stops as was the case when Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate were killed in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on May 9, the fund reported. Six officers were ambushed, among them Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth of Harris County, Texas, who was shot 15 times after filling up his marked cruiser at a gas station on Aug. 28. And on Monday, three officers in Puerto Rico were shot to death by a fellow officer who once had his department-issued weapon removed while he was in psychological treatment, officials said.
Thirty other officers died of other causes, including 24 who had job-related illnesses, mostly heart attacks. Four of those officers died as a result of their rescue and recovery work after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two fell their death, one officer drowned, one was electrocuted, one was beaten to death and one died in an aircraft crash.
Nine of the officers were women, twice as many as last year.
Texas saw the most officers killed at 12, followed by 11 in Georgia, nine in Louisiana and six each in California and New York. Eight agencies had more than one death: Puerto Rico with five, Texas Department of Criminal Justice with three and two each for the Colorado State Patrol, Kentucky State Police, New Jersey State Police, New York Police Department and the departments in Harris County, Texas, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The others killed were correctional officers or those who served with territorial, tribal or federal agencies.