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The number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty across the U.S. last year totaled 458, a 55 percent increase from 2020, the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund said in a report released Tuesday.
Covid-19 was the leading cause of death, having killed 301 federal, state, tribal and local officers, the report said.
“It has been reported to NLEOMF that these officers have died due to direct exposure to the virus during the commission of their official duties,” the report said.
The number represented a dramatic jump in 50 years of data in the report. Just one decade — the 1970s — averaged more than 200 deaths a year.
The report mentions only one other year that topped 300 deaths — 1930.
Criminal assaults accounted for 84 deaths last year, including those of 62 officers who were killed by gunfire. Traffic incidents were responsible for 58 deaths. The numbers of gunfire and traffic deaths both rose from the year before, the report says. The number of officers killed in “ambush-style attacks” also rose: 19 last year, up from six in 2020.
The remaining deaths were attributed to health issues, drownings and other causes.
“This year’s statistics demonstrate that America’s front-line law enforcement officers continue to battle the deadly effects of the Covid-19 pandemic nationwide,” the report says.
In Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott banned all public and private entities from mandating vaccinations, 84 officers died from Covid-19, the most in the country. Florida (52) was next, followed by Georgia (39), California (24) and North Carolina (21). Eleven states and Washington, D.C., had no Covid-19 deaths, the report says.
The report doesn’t say how many of the officers were vaccinated; police union officials from Chicago to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and New York City to Seattle have spoken out against vaccination mandates. New York City’s largest police union told its members in September that it would take legal action to defend their “right to make such personal medical decisions.”
The widow of a Philadelphia police officer who died from Covid-19 on March 3 — and had been scheduled to get his first shot on March 11 — told NBC News last year that she was “really disappointed” with the opposition.
“I wish that they saw it as another means of protection,” she said. “And I wish that they saw the vaccine as a way that they are protecting and serving the people that they work with.”
Sheriffs in California, Kansas, Florida and elsewhere have said they wouldn’t enforce vaccination requirements. An advertisement posted Tuesday by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state listed “no vaccine mandate” as a perk of the job.
In October, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered $5,000 signing bonuses to vaccine-resistant officers and deputies who moved from out of state to Florida, where, he said, “nobody should lose their job based off these injections.”