Number of Police Officers Killed by Gunfire is Lowest in 50 Years

The number of police officers killed by gunfire in 2008 dropped by 40% from 2007, down to its lowest level in more than 50 years, according to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.  The report attributed the decline to a new emphasis on officer safety training and equipment.   In addition to increased training, more officers are wearing body armor and using stun guns to protect themselves. The overall number of officers killed in the line of duty also declined in 2008.

Ed Nowicki, the Executive Director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, expressed concern that the tight economy and shrinking police budgets might force departments to cut back training.  “You need cars, you need firearms, you need uniforms.  Training is an abstract,” Nowicki said.  “The number of deaths in 2008 is nothing compared to the deaths in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  It was much higher then.  Better training and equipment have made the difference.” 

(D. Leinwand, “40% fewer officers killed by gunfire in ’08,” USA Today, December 31, 2008). See Deterrence and Studies.   Use of the death penalty has also been declining in recent years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center's Year End Report for 2008. See also DPIC's report, On the Front Line: Law Enforcement Views on the Death Penalty.