A record high number of law enforcement officers in the United States died in the line of duty last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Preliminary information in the organization’s 2021 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities report showed 458 officer deaths last year, a 55% increase over 295 fatalities the previous year.
Sixty-two officers were killed by guns last year, a 36% increase from 2020, the report said. Most of them were killed with handguns, and 19 died after being ambushed.
Another 58 officers were killed in traffic-related deaths, an increase of 38% over the previous year, according to the report.
It also said 338 officers whose cause of deaths last year were categorized as “Other” included 301 fatalities that were linked to COVID-19, a 63% increase over 2020.
“The year 2021 will go down as the year of the most line-of-duty fatalities since 1930 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increases in traffic fatalities and firearms ambushes,” Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto said in a statement.
Of the 37 officers who died in the line of duty last year from other causes, 25 died from other illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes and illnesses related to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, according to the report.
Four officers died from beatings in 2021, while four others drowned, the report said. Two officers were fatally stabbed, while one was killed when the patrol vehicle the officer was in “was swept away by floodwaters.” One officer was killed in a tornado.
“This time of year always reminds us of the sacrifice of law enforcement and the importance of our mission to honor the fallen,” Ferranto said.