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2023 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report reveals law enforcement deaths dropped

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund releases 2023 year-end fatalities report depicting firearms fatalities were the leading cause of law enforcement deaths in 2023

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Photo via NLEOMF

Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2023 decreased 39% compared to the previous year, according to preliminary data provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), the leading authority on officer fatalities. As reported in their official 2023 End-of-Year Preliminary Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report, the NLEOMF data shows that 136 federal, state, county, municipal, military, tribal, and campus officers have died in the line of duty in 2023, representing a 39% decrease compared to the 224 officers who died in the line of duty in 2022.

“There is no such thing as ‘good news’ when reporting even a single officer being killed in the line-of-duty,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Bill Alexander. “Yet we are encouraged to see fewer overall officer deaths across all major categories in 2023. Using and reporting on this data allows us to highlight the continuing dangers faced by our law enforcement professionals, particularly the number of officers who are shot and killed each year.”

Firearms-Related Fatalities

Firearms-related fatalities have claimed the lives of 47 officers in 2023, which represents a 25% decrease from the 63 officers killed by gunfire in 2022, yet was the leading cause of death.

Of the 47 firearms fatalities:

  • 9 were attempting to make an arrest
  • 7 were handling domestic disturbance calls
  • 6 were investigating suspicious persons or circumstances
  • 5 were ambushed
  • 5 were responding to robbery/burglary in-progress calls
  • 5 were killed during traffic enforcement
  • 2 were killed serving warrants
  • 2 were investigating disturbance calls
  • 2 were killed during tactical encounters
  • 2 were killed in other circumstances
  • 1 was a training accident
  • 1 off duty officer intervened in a crime in progress

Traffic-Related Fatalities

Traffic-related fatalities decreased 27% with 37 deaths in 2023, compared to 51 deaths in 2022. The 27 fatal crashes in 2023 (automobile/motorcycle) represents a decrease of 25% compared to the 36 fatal crashes in 2022. “Struck-by” fatalities, defined as an officer struck outside of their patrol vehicle, dropped 33% from 15 in 2022 to 10 in 2023.

Of the 37 traffic-related deaths:

  • 23 were automobile crashes
  • 4 were motorcycle crashes
  • 10 were struck-by fatalities

Other Causes and Fatalities

The ‘other’ category continues to represent the largest group of officers who died in the line of duty in 2023. Beyond Covid-19-related deaths, this category includes long-term illnesses related to the September 11th terror attacks, acute medical events brought on by extreme and/or stressful events experienced on-duty, and a variety of rare yet significant fatal incidents. Covid-19 related deaths also fall into the ‘Other’ category. The trend of significant reductions in Covid-19 related deaths continued in 2023, as only 5 such deaths were reported.

Of the 52 ‘Other Causes’ deaths in 2023:

  • 35 were fatal medical events
  • 5 were related to Covid-19
  • 3 officers fell to their death
  • 2 were due to aircraft crashes
  • 1 was due to a falling object
  • 1 officer died assisting in a fire incident
  • 1 officer drowned
  • 1 officer was beaten to death
  • 1 officer was stabbed to death
  • 1 officer was struck by a train
  • 1 officer was strangled to death

States with the Largest Number of Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities

  • New York experienced the largest number of law enforcement fatalities of all U.S. states in 2023, with 13 line-of-duty deaths.
  • Texas has the second highest number with 11 officer deaths
  • Louisiana had the third highest number with 8 officer deaths
  • California had the fourth highest number with 7 officer deaths
  • Indiana, and Tennessee had the fifth highest number with 6 officer deaths each
  • In addition, 7 federal officers, 3 officers serving US Territories, 1 military officer, and 1 tribal officer died in 2023. 10 states did not lose an officer in 2023.

Additional Demographics

There were 126 male officers killed in the line of duty, and 10 female officers. The average age of the fallen officers is 45, with an average of 15 years of service. On average, officers left behind two children.

The statistics released in the annual report are based on preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and may not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2024.

The Engraving

There are currently 23,785 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 1786. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was 2021, when 586 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. NLEOMF anticipates adding at least 151 names to the sacred walls in the Spring of 2024, representing the current and historical deaths which, to date, have been approved as line-of-duty deaths.