The FBI collects data from US law enforcement agencies on officer assaults and deaths. The data is categorized into two types: felonious, meaning purposefully killed, and accidental. The collected information includes deaths occurring on the job but doesn’t include work-related exposures that may lead to illness or death. The data excludes COVID-19, 9/11-related illnesses, and suicides.
Officer deaths since the 1990s
There were eleven fewer officer deaths in 2022 than in 2021. Officer deaths have increased since 1996, when the FBI began collecting data. However, there were fewer officers killed in 2022 than in 1997.
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What is the top cause of death for police officers on duty?
In 2022, felonious killings were the top cause of death for law enforcement officers, accounting for 60 deaths, compared to 58 accidental deaths. This is a decline from 2021, when there were 73 felonious officer deaths. This figure marked a 25-year record high. The majority of killings were committed using a firearm. Six of the felonious killings in 2022 were unprovoked attacks on law enforcement officers. The rest occurred during regular police activity, such as traffic stops or investigations.
Fifty-eight officers were accidentally killed in 2022. Thirty-four of those deaths came from motor vehicle crashes. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice, one common cause of accidental deaths is officers exiting a vehicle on a roadway, increasing the likelihood of being struck by other vehicles. The study found that agencies which increased training and required reflective gear for patrol officers had a reduction in such accidental deaths. Additionally, better airbag technology and increased seat belt use helped prevent deaths while driving.
Annual law enforcement officer deaths by type
The numbers of felonious and accidental police officer deaths in 2022 were nearly equal. There were more accidental police officer deaths in 2022 than in any year since 2011.
Which areas of the US had the highest number of police officers killed on duty?
Sixty-six officers were killed in the South, more than twice the rate of any other region. The South also has roughly double the amount of law enforcement officers than any other region, according to BLS employment data. Additionally, the southern region of the US also has a larger population compared to the other regions of the US.
Total law enforcement deaths by region
In 2022, the West had the second-highest number of law enforcement deaths at 22, while the Midwest and Northeast had 17 and 13 deaths, respectively. No officers were killed in Puerto Rico in 2022. While officer deaths decreased in the South, West, Midwest, and Puerto Rico from 2021 to 2022, they nearly doubled in the Northeast.
Do police officers have one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs?
Policing did not rank in the top 10 most deadly professions in the US in 2020, the most recent year of available data. BLS ranked professions by the number of on-the-job fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent employees for 2020. Fishing and hunting workers had the highest fatality rate at 132.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. For police officers, that rate was about 13 deaths per 100,000 officers in 2020.
Fatalities by industry per 100,000 full-time employees
After fishing and hunting workers, the occupations with the highest fatality rates per 100,000 full-time equivalent employees in 2020 were logging workers (91.7), roofers (47), and helpers in the construction trade (43.3). In 2020, law enforcement ranked as the 18th highest industry for on-the-job deaths.