For second year, COVID-19 leading LODD cause of officer death
Only 18 states and Washington, D.C. had zero line-of-duty COVID deaths
By Amy Sokolow
WASHINGTON — A sobering study released by the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum revealed that, for the second consecutive year, COVID-19 sustained on the job was the leading cause of police officer deaths.
"This year's statistics demonstrate that America's front-line law enforcement officers continue to battle the deadly effects of the Covid-19 pandemic nationwide," the report said. "Preliminary data shows that some 301 officer fatalities have been identified as caused by COVID this year, and this number appears to increase almost daily."
The report also notes that 458 total law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2021, an increase of 65% from the 295 officers killed during the same period last year, and the highest total line-of-duty officer deaths since 1930 when there were 312 fatalities.
Massachusetts had fewer than average COVID-19 deaths among officers last year, and a Massachusetts State Police spokesman confirmed that no troopers died of COVID this year. The report showed that between one and three officers died of COVID sustained during the line of duty in the Bay State last year, but did not name them.
One of the officers was likely Detective Sergeant Stephen R. Desfosses of the Norton Police Department, who contracted COVID-19 during a confirmed exposure while on duty in late 2020, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website. He died on Jan. 13, 2021, after 30 years as an officer, the website states, leaving behind a wife and four children.
The website also states that three Massachusetts officers died of COVID-19 contracted on-duty in 2020, one each in the Boston, Taunton and Rutland police departments.
The COVID fatalities were highest in large states, and those with lower vaccination rates than Massachusetts, including California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Missouri, each with over 7 officer COVID deaths. Only 18 states and Washington, D.C. had zero COVID deaths.
After the 301 COVID fatalities, the next-highest death toll was traffic-related fatalities, including single-vehicle crashes, vehicle collisions, motorcycle crashes and "struck-by" incidents, which jumped 93% year-over-year. The 58 officers who died in traffic accidents increased 38% over the 42 who died during the same period last year.
The report also found that 84 officers died of "felonious assaults" including 61 killed by firearms — a 36% increase over the 45 officers killed by firearms in 2020. A total of 19 of those officers were killed in "ambush-style attacks," in contrast to only 6 such attacks in 2020.
Additionally, four officers were beaten to death, two died from 9/11-related illnesses, and three were stabbed. Four officers, including Worcester Officer Manny Familia, drowned.
(c)2022 the Boston Herald