U.S. police deaths down to 1959 levels

Dec. 30, 2009 at 1:45 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Researchers say 124 U.S. police officers have died in the line of duty so far this year, the lowest figure since 1959, when 108 officers were killed on the job.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says the number of fatalities as of Dec. 28 represents a 7 percent reduction from the 133 fatalities in 2008.

"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," Craig W. Floyd, chairman of the fund, says in a statement says in a statement. "However, that bit of good news was overshadowed by an alarming surge in the number of officers killed by gunfire."

Floyd says 48 officers were shot and killed this year, compared to 39 in 2008, a 23 percent increase. More than 30 percent of this year's fatal shootings --15 in all -- occurred in five incidents in which more than one officer was gunned down by a single assailant.

Fifty-six officers were killed in traffic-related incidents this year, compared to 71 in 2008. Of the 56 traffic-related fatalities, 40 died in automobile crashes, 12 were struck and killed by automobiles while outside of their own vehicles and four died in motorcycle crashes, the report says.

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