Traffic-related incidents second-leading cause of officer fatalities

Published 4:13 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

Citizens and law enforcement joined together to show support and mourn the loss of Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth, by activating their red and blue lights for one minute at 11 a.m. Friday, the moment Deputy Goforth’s memorial service in Houston was set to begin. Residents were seen throughout town wearing blue to show their support of local law enforcement.

Orange County has been fortunate to have not lost an officer since June 28, 1974 when Captain Danny Gray was killed in the line of duty during an attempted jail escape.

Law enforcement fatalities in the U.S. rose 24 percent in 2014, reversing what had been two years of dramatic declines in line of duty deaths, based on preliminary data compiled and released today by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

“Acts of violence against our brave law enforcement in Texas will not be tolerated.  We should take all steps necessary to prosecute those who commit them to the fullest extent possible under the law.  I commend the Harris County Sheriff’s office and the Harris County DA’s office for their swift work apprehending and charging this dangerous criminal for this heinous murder of a Texas law enforcement officer,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “The Texas Attorney General’s office extends its deepest condolences to Deputy Goforth’s wife and children, family and friends during this time of unimaginable grief.  We should never forget the sacrifice that law enforcement and their supportive families make when officers go out each day to ensure the safety of our families and the safety of our communities.”

According to the NLEOMF report, 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014, compared to 102 in 2013. The number of officers killed by firearms in 2014 (50) was 56 percent higher than the number killed by gunfire in 2013 (32).

Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, matching 2012 for the highest total since 1995.

“Texans across the state are uniting in support of Deputy Goforth and every law enforcement officer who puts their life on the line each day in order to keep Texas safe and strong,” Governor Greg Abbott said. “We must come together to honor Deputy Goforth and the essential role law enforcement plays in serving and protecting our states’s families and communities. Therefore I ask all Texas flags to be lowered to half-staff on Friday, September 4th, to honor the bravery, the dedication and the everlasting memory of Deputy Darren Goforth.”

Forty-nine officers were killed in traffic-related incidents in 2014, which was an 11 percent increase from 2013. Twenty-seven officers died due to other causes in 2014, including 24 who suffered from job-related illnesses—such as heart attacks—while performing their duties.

In 2011, officer fatalities spiked to 171, which led to a number of new initiatives and policy changes aimed at promoting law enforcement safety. The result was a sharp decline in line-of-duty deaths to 123 in 2012 and 102 in 2014 —the lowest fatality figure since 1944. Over the past decade the average annual number of officer deaths has been 151. The deadliest year ever for law enforcement was 1930 when 300 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The deadliest single incident was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, resulting in 72 officer deaths. There are more than 20,000 names of officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, dating back to the first known death in 1791.

“We issue this report each year as a stark reminder that some 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers go out each and every day putting their lives on the line for our safety and protection,” NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd said. “These brave men and women are willing to lay down their lives for us. The least we should do is honor and remember their service and sacrifice, support their families and do all that we can to make it safer for those who continue to serve.”

Firearms-related incidents were the number one cause of officer deaths in 2014, with 50. This was a 56 percent increase over the 32 officers shot and killed in 2013.

Ambush attacks resulted in 15 officer deaths, the leading felonious cause of deaths among officers in 2014 and for the fifth straight year. The other leading categories of felonious deaths in 2014 were traffic stops or pursuits (8), investigating suspicious persons or activities (7), disturbance calls (6), attempting arrests (4), investigative activities (3), accidental shootings (2), burglary in progress (2), investigating drug-related matters (1), robbery in progress (1), and tactical situations (1).

Traffic-related incidents were the second-leading cause of officer fatalities in 2014, with 49. This was an 11 percent increase over the 44 traffic-related deaths in 2013. Of these 49 officers, 35 were killed in automobile crashes, nine officers were struck and killed outside their vehicle and five officers were killed in motorcycle crashes.

Of the 27 officers who died due to other causes this year, 24 were caused by job-related illnesses; one officer was strangled to death; one officer drowned; and one officer was killed in a fire-related incident.

During the past year, more officers were killed in California (14) than any other state; followed by Texas (11); New York (9); Florida (6) and Georgia (5).

Six officers killed in 2014 served with federal law enforcement agencies. Two of the officers who died during the past year served with correctional agencies, two were tribal officers and one was a military officer. Three of the 126 fatalities were female. On average, the officers who died in 2014 were 41 years old and had served for 12 years.