Home Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement No Officers Killed by Gunfire in January, But Still Too Many Duty Deaths

No Officers Killed by Gunfire in January, But Still Too Many Duty Deaths

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By Mark Bond, professor of Criminal Justice at American Military University

January 2015 was a good month for the law enforcement community. It was the first month since September 2011 that there were no felonious gunfire deaths of law enforcement officers in the United States, reported the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) blog. This is only the third month since 1985 in which no law enforcement gunfire deaths occurred.

While this is good news for police, there are still too many line-of-duty deaths, many of which are preventable. In 2014, ODMP reported 121 law enforcement line-of-duty deaths, 117 male officers and 4 female officers.

Cause of Line-of-Duty Deaths in 2014:

  • Assault: 2
  • Automobile accident: 26
  • Drowned: 1
  • Duty related illness: 1
  • Fire: 1
  • Gunfire: 47
  • Gunfire (Accidental): 2
  • Heart attack: 17
  • Motorcycle accident: 4
  • Struck by vehicle: 5
  • Vehicle pursuit: 5
  • Vehicular assault: 10

Police FuneralGunfire remains the leading cause of duty deaths at 47, followed by automobile accidents, which killed 26 officers. There were also 17 on-duty heart attack deaths. The average age of officers killed in 2014 was 40 years old and the average duty time was 12 years and 3 months. California had the most officers killed with 14, followed by Texas with 11.

The 2014 statistics are relatively on par with previous line-of-duty reports. From 2004 to 2014, 1,553 law enforcement officers died in reported duty deaths. The causes of officer deaths were:

  • Shot (all types of firearms): 568
  • Auto Accidents (Cruiser): 448
  • Law Enforcement Related Illness: 192
  • Struck by Vehicle: 145

[Related Article: Analyzing Law Enforcement Deaths: What’s Missing from These Statistics?]

Lessons from the Statistics
Based on the 2014 statistics, one thing that can immediately be addressed is reducing the number of heart attacks and law enforcement related illnesses. Officers should have regular doctor visits to identify and treat risks of heart disease. In additional to routine annual exams, officers should seek medical evaluation if they gain a significant amount of weight or if they experience high levels of stress.

Stress management is a key element to a healthy and sustainable career in law enforcement. Here are some signs of stress:

  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of sadness, frustration, and helplessness
  • Recurring feelings of fear and anxiety
  • Anger, tension, and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Reduced interest in usual “enjoyable” activities
  • Wanting to be alone and avoiding others
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches, muscle pains, and stomach problems
  • Smoking or increased use of alcohol or drugs

A good exercise program and physical fitness are critical to officer health. It is also important to develop healthy eating habits. A good professional-personal life balance is equally important.

About the Author: Mark Bond worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms trainer for more than 29 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in Criminal Justice, and M.Ed in Educational Leadership with Summa Cum Laude Honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education with a concentration in distance education. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University & American Public University and is one of the faculty directors in the School of Public Service & Health. You can contact him at Mark.Bond@mycampus.apus.edu.

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