A recently released report shows that the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has fallen to an all-time low.
The report, released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), reveals a 23 percent decline in the number of officers killed in 2012 compared to 2011.
With only four days remaining in 2012, there have been a total of 127 officers killed in the line of duty. In 2011, there were 165 killed, and 154 were killed in 2010.
Traffic accidents and firearms claimed the most lives, with 50 officers being killed due to traffic related accidents, while there were 49 firearms-related fatalities.
The drop marks the lowest number of line of duty deaths since records began being kept in 1962. Prior to 2012, the two years with the lowest number of officer deaths was 1967, when there were a total of 138 reported deaths, and 2008, when there were 139 officer fatalities.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Total law enforcement fatalities from 1962-2012.
Craig W. Floyd, chief executive of NLEOMF, welcomed the decline, especially after seeing a 43 percent increase of officer fatalities in 2010, and another 13 percent jump in 2011. He credits a unified focus and collaboration between federal, state and local agencies as being partly responsible for the dramatic drop, telling NBC News:
"The law enforcement community has banded together with laser-like focus on peace officer safety."
The sharp decline also comes after the first full year of two officer safety programs being initiated by the White House. The Law Enforcement Safety Initiative, which was announced in March of 2011, provided 96,000 ballistic vests to officers in 4,000 departments. Floyd told the Associate Press that in 2010 and 2011, 30 percent of officers who were fatally shot were not wearing ballistic vests. The increased availability of vests is seen by many in the law enforcement community as a key reason why firearm related deaths are down. A former officer survival instructor at the Metro Nashville Police Department told Digital Journal:
"Many rural, small town departments don't have the money in their budget to provide bullet proof vests to officers. The officers have to either take money out of their own pocket to buy a vest or simply do without. It is a well known fact that bullet proof vests save officers lives, and the federal government making it easier for departments to provide vests has certainly saved lives."
The initiative also set up an officer safety training program and website that federal, state and local departments can access. When the program was announced, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said:
“Our law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to ensure the safety and security of the American people in cities and communities across the country, and we need to do everything we can to protect them.”
At the direction of President Obama, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) teamed up with NLEOMF in August 2011. Together they launched the NHTSA Officer Safety Initiatives. The goal of the program is to make law enforcement officers more aware of the dangers associated with traffic direction and night time traffic stops, as well as reducing "distracted driving". It encourages officers to wear their seat belts at all times, utilize their reflective traffic vests and anticipate and select the safest locations possible when initiating a traffic stop.
Floyd is certainly excited about the drop in fatalities, telling Police Magazine:
"The loss of any officer is unacceptable and devastating to their family, their community and our nation. However, I am encouraged to see a significant decrease in the number of law enforcement officers killed in 2012 after two years of alarming increases in the number of fatalities."