For the second year in a row, Covid-19 was the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in the United States, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Last year, a total of 458 officers in the country died while on military service, making it the deadliest year in more than 90 years and a 55 percent increase from 2020, according to preliminary data collected by the organization. Of those, it found that 301 federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers had died as a result of Covid-19.
“It has been reported to NLEOMF that these officers have died as a result of direct exposure to the virus while performing their official duties,” the report said:.
Crimes last year were responsible for the deaths of 84 officers, including 62 officers who were killed with firearms, the report said. Fifty-eight were killed in traffic-related incidents while working on the roads. Both the number of deaths from firearms attacks and road deaths had increased compared to the previous year.
The remaining deaths were attributed to reasons such as heart attacks, strokes and 9/11-related illnesses, the report said. Other officers were killed in beatings, drownings and stabbings. One officer was killed in flooding, and another was killed in a tornado.
In the three decades before the pandemic, the annual overview of the organization of officers killed while on duty only exceeded 200 twice, in 2001 and 2007. The last time it exceeded 300 was in 1930.
While hundreds of Covid-19-related officer deaths were identified, the report is preliminary and the authors expected agencies to report a significant number of them. “Law enforcement officers across the country are still exposed to the Covid-19 virus in the course of their day-to-day duties,” it reads. “That’s why the number of deaths while on duty is unfortunately increasing.”
Last fall it was reported that more than 460 U.S. law enforcement officers were killed of Covid-19 infections tied to their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Without comprehensive accounting of how many officers were sick with the virus, departments from coast to coast reported major outbreaks in the ranks. Vaccinations, which have proven effective in preventing serious illness and death, have remained a hard sell for some officers.
In recent months, as local governments began implementing vaccine mandates for workers, some police officers and law enforcement unions have pushed back, threaten with dismissal and legal action.
In October, New York City’s Largest Police Union sued over city’s vaccine mandate. The Police Benevolent Association of New York told a vaccine mandate for officers who do not allow the option of being tested weekly rather than being vaccinated. A federal judge this week a lawsuit dismissed filed by several Los Angeles police officers who had sued over the city’s vaccine mandate.