Through Monday, 124 law officers died in the line of duty from all causes, a 7 percent drop from the 133 deaths in 2008, preliminary data collected by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund indicated.
"This year's overall reduction in law enforcement deaths was driven largely by a steep, 21 percent drop in the number of officers killed in traffic-related incidents," the fund's chairman and chief executive officer, Craig W. Floyd, said in a release. "However, that bit of good news was overshadowed by an alarming surge in the number of officers killed by gunfire."
Floyd said 48 officers were fatally shot in 2009, compared to 39 in 2008 -- a 23 percent increase.
The last time officer fatalities were as low was in 1959, when 108 line-of-duty deaths were reported, Floyd said.
The report said 15 deaths occurred in five incidents in which more than one officer was killed by a lone assailant. Floyd said the 15 officers who died in multiple-death shootings were the most of any year since 1981.
Fifty-six officers were killed in traffic-related incidents in 2009, compared to 71 in 2008, data showed. Traffic-related fatalities was the leading cause of officer deaths for the 12th straight year.
Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico reported officer fatalities during 2009. Texas, with 11 deaths, Florida with nine and California with eight had the most fatalities, the report said.