Steep rise in US police deaths explained
A spike in law enforcement fatalities last year is linked to exposure to Covid in the line of duty and subsequent illness
A recent report has indicated a 55% year-on-year rise in police fatalities across the US in 2021. Infection with Covid-19 in the line of duty – and the health complications that followed – emerged as the biggest culprit.
The analysis published by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund on Tuesday said a total of 458 officers lost their lives in 2021 either while doing their job, or as a direct consequence thereof. One noteworthy finding in the report is that “some 301 officer fatalities have been identified as caused by Covid this year,” thus making the virus “the single highest cause of law enforcement deaths occurring in 2021.” Researchers warn the figure “appears to increase almost daily.”
According to the report, those Covid-related deaths count as in-the-line-of-duty fatalities because the “officers have died due to direct exposure to the virus during the commission of their official duties.“
In comparison, 62 officer deaths in 2021 are said to have been firearms-related. However, it is worth noting that fatalities resulting from criminal assaults, including what the report describes as “ambush-style attacks,” also rose last year compared to 2020.
Most Covid-related deaths among officers were recorded in Texas, where 84 succumbed to the deadly disease, followed by 52 victims in Florida and 39 in Georgia. In contrast, in 11 states and Washington, DC, no officer was lost to Covid, the report says.
The analysis is, however, preliminary and does not specify how many of the fallen law enforcement personnel had been vaccinated. Drawing on the accumulated pool of data, the researchers conclude that it is already clear that “America’s front-line law enforcement officers continue to battle the deadly effects of the Covid-19 pandemic nationwide.”