By: Craig Floyd – January, 2005
WASHINGTON – As of December 23, 154 law enforcement officers across the nation were killed in the line of duty during 2004. This is the third year in a row that the number has been well below the decade-long average of 164 annual law enforcement deaths.
According to the 2004 “Fallen Heroes Report” released jointly by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), the states with the highest number of officer fatalities were: California (15), Texas (14), Florida (12), New York (11) and Alabama (9). Among other significant findings contained in the report was a sharp increase in the number of federal law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty (eight in 2004, compared to one in 2003), and a growing trend of more deaths resulting from traffic-related accidents (72) than from shootings (57). In addition to the 51 officers killed in automobile accidents, 12 were struck and killed by vehicles during traffic stops and while assisting at accident scenes, and nine were killed in motorcycle accidents.
In addition to the officers killed in traffic-related accidents and shootings, 11 officers succumbed to job-related illnesses; three died in aircraft accidents; three drowned; three died in bomb-related incidents; two fell to their deaths; one was beaten to death; one was electrocuted; and one was struck by a falling object. Of the 154 federal, state and local officers who died last year, eight were female.
“Honoring officers who have died in the line of duty goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to doing everything possible to protect the safety of those who serve,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman Craig W. Floyd. “Better driver training, safer automobiles, and the increased use of bullet-resistant vests and less-lethal weapons are just some of the measures that must be taken to help prevent our officers from being killed while preserving public safety.”
“When law enforcement officers die in the line of duty, their families need strong support,” said COPS National President Shirley Gibson. “Concerns of Police Survivors will be there for the 154 families who lost their officer in 2004, encouraging them to find that support through the other law enforcement survivors and COPS programs. COPS saved my life by reaching out to me and my family in 1997. COPS is ready to do the same for the survivors of 2004.”
Shirley Gibson’s son, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Master Patrol Officer Brian T. Gibson, was shot and killed in 1997 while he waited in his police cruiser for a traffic light to change. In her position as President of COPS, Ms. Gibson represents over 14,000 surviving families of America’s fallen law enforcement officers.
Mr. Floyd said that the NLEOMF has established a special section on its Web site for anyone interested in leaving a special tribute to the 154 law enforcement officers who died last year, or a message of condolence to their families. The Web site address is www.nleomf.com.
There are more than 16,500 names of fallen officers currently inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., dating back to the first known law enforcement fatality in 1792. The names of the officers killed in 2004 will be formally added to that Memorial at a candlelight vigil on May 13, 2005. The NLEOMF is now in the process of building a National Law Enforcement Museum across the street from the Memorial to tell the history of law enforcement in America, including the individual tales of these fallen heroes.