Law Enforcement

Fewer cops killed in line of duty in 2017, the second lowest total in 50 years.

WLA Guest
Written by WLA Guest

by Jose Torres

The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty for 2017 is the second-lowest total in more than 50 years.

As of Dec. 28th, 128 officers died in the line of duty in 2017. Of the 128 killed, 44 died after being shot.

The 2017 numbers represent a 10 percent reduction in law enforcement deaths in the line of duty (LODs) from the previous year. In 2016, 143 officers died, with 66 killed by gunfire.

For most of us, even one cop dying is one too many.

“This is one of those good-news, bad-news situations,” said Craig Floyd, president and chief executive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. “On one hand, you had 128 officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, showing the cost of public safety. But for the first time since 2013, the number of deaths has actually declined.”

Officer Fatalities 1977-2017 courtesy of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Experts chalk up the reduction in deaths to more awareness about single-vehicle accidents (the leading cause of death in the line of duty) and other factors.

“It’s definitely a good sign but if it’s a trend, we’ll have to see,” Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina and a researcher on high-risk police activities told USA Today.

Craig Floyd said he was hopeful that this is a sign that officers have restored some trust, especially in communities where relationships have been torn.

“Body-worn cameras have helped departments become more transparent and have enabled them to stop violence before it begins after controversial incidents,” he said. “I think we are starting to see the impact of all this new training and equipment, and a shift because of the overall concern for officer safety.”

Some suggest that new policies limiting the circumstances where officers can engage in vehicle pursuits and “move over” laws** might be two factors driving the numbers in the right direction.

Texas saw the highest number of law enforcement officers killed on the job with 14 deaths.

Tied for second were Florida and New York, both with nine killed in the line of duty.

Randy Sutton, a former police lieutenant and now a pro-police activist said the reduction in numbers of officers shot and killed on the job is likely due to police officers being more fearful and less aggressive.

“There’s a saying in law enforcement: ‘You can’t get in trouble for the car stop you don’t make’,” he said. “They don’t want to be the next Ferguson, the next officer burned on the stake.”

Sutton’s theory, that the so-called Ferguson effect is keeping cops inactive because they’re afraid for their lives and reputations, is widely accepted in police circles.

In a related story, the number of people killed by officers in the United States increased from 2016 totals.

As of December 28, 2017, some 971 people had been shot and killed by police.

Justin Nix, a criminal justice professor at the University of South Carolina says the number of on the job deaths in a given year is usually pretty predictable.

“Every year, 100 to 150 officers die in the line of duty. It’s a relatively small number when you consider the half a million officers nationwide, so it’s going to bounce around,” Nix said. “This decrease is definitely a good thing, but there’s no way of knowing whether it might go up again next year.”

Floyd says that the awareness of officer safety and wellness could be a major factor.

“In my 33 years doing this, I’ve never seen the amount of awareness given to officer safety and wellness,” he said. “That’s definitely been paying off and will continue to help make law enforcement a significantly safer profession.”

Editor’s note:

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit aimed at honoring officers and improving safety, which compiled this data, the leading circumstances of firearms-related fatalities were officers responding to domestic disturbances and conducting traffic stops. One-hundred and nineteen fallen officers were male and nine were female. Their average age was 42 years, with 13 years of service. On average, each officer left behind two children.

**A move over law is a statute that requires motorists to move over and change lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulances, utility workers, and in some cases, tow-truck drivers.

This story first appeared in American Police Beat Magazine and was reprinted with their kind permission.

Photo of Los Angeles Police Department memorial for fallen officers by By Texjer, Wikimedia Commons


  • Jose:. You forgot to add that 57,180 police officers were also assaulted last year in addition to those killed in the line of duty

  • Jose:. Correction. Those are the numbers for 2016, which represent an approx 10,% increase in assaults against police officers from 2015.

  • We have all just seen how the school deputy in Florida was nationally castigated for not entering the school building & engaging the shooter by himself, even though the military standard is that an attacking force must outnumber the defending force by 3:1, else the attack will likely fail.

    That is the new expectation for the police officer.

    Exactly like being point man in the Infantry.

    • As former Infantry and Scout Sniper, I concur with the operation of the Point Man. You and I both know that he is immediately followed by a fire team. I can’t comment or judge Scot Peterson’s actions or lack thereof, because we have not heard his story, nor has the public heard the debriefing… including trump.

  • Second lowest figure in 50 years. Wow. With the biggest cause being “single-vehicle accidents (the leading cause of death in the line of duty).” So, the BLM folks are not shooting officers left and right as the usual suspects on this site would have the world believe. I’m sure they’ll cry Fake News and find another way to play the victim.

    • “…and find another way to play victim.”

      In one of the earlier school mass shootings–there’ve been so many I can’t exactly remember which one–the responding police SWAT team was assembling out in the school parking lot while the shooter was inside the school shooting more victims.

      The resulting public furor THAT caused changed the protocol so that initial responding officers will engage & take down the shooter as quickly as possible–no dithering around at all.

      That’s basically what we saw with the San Bernardino shooting, in which fourteen were killed & twenty-two wounded.

      Responding officers entered the building & engaged the shooter immediately on arrival.

      Full particulars on THAT can be Googled, so I won’t go into them here.

      UPSHOT: the responding police officer is the point man in taking down an active shooter.

      So it’s not the BLM folks that’s now the threat; it’s the dingbat with a rifle.

      And the threat is greater than it ever was.

      • The Columbine incident is the one you are referring to. Regarding San Bernardino, the responding cops missed the shooters on scene, and were killed in a subsequent shootout a short distance away on the streets. The Dallas shooting involved 5 killed in the gunfight with the suspect.

  • CF: I guess nine officers killed in one night in Dallas wasn’t enough for you. Still waiting for you to exercise your first amendment rights and front off the first officer you see……I guess I will be waiting until hell freezes over. I assume your parents didn’t care much for you either.

  • Cog:. As a retired police officer with 26 years of experience… expectations are that the first officer on scene should enter and engage the suspect. I realize that may go against protocol….but sometimes you have to get out of the car and earn ur money. Especially where children are concerned.

  • Just about right at 50% of those who gunned down cops last years were Male Blacks, about 7% of the population. It’s running higher this year and more people of color than Whites gunned down cops last year. In fact way more cops gunned down this year than last at this time. More cops shot last year than the year before but more survived. Nothing to be happy about. F.O. Reg.

  • Regarding the Deputy in the Florida school shooting, it is the irony of life, and the old saying, damn if you do damn if you don’t. After the Columbine shooting, police policies across the nation were changed from waiting until a swat team arrived, to regular cops forming an attack/rescue team and enter the active shooting location. I know for a fact the LA sheriffs department trains active shooting situation using at least four deputies, the so-called diamond formation. I know for a fact there is no such thing as one man team.

    In fact, crooked James McBuckles, per his policy, would get a deputy fired if a deputy went SOLO in the pursuit of an armed dangerous subject, who would pose a danger to others. I believe deputies are now afraid to engage, not because they are afraid of dying, but because they are afraid of getting fired and prosecuted, should things would look awful on video.

    When deputies are not engaging GOOD things will happen, there will NOT be dead criminals nor deputies. There will be, however, a lot of innocent victims from the communities.

    Many of the sheriff’s department executives, IAB, and ICIB are there, because they did exactly as Scott Peterson did, either he was afraid of dying or was afraid of breaking policy. They for sure lack heart and common sense.

    • Joe NoBuckles:

      “…or was afraid of breaking policy.”

      I think you hit THAT nail on the head.

      For years the Florida school resource deputy was undoubtedly implementing a policy of being nice to student malefactors.

      He got glowing performance evaluations & awards for doing that.

      Then, all of a sudden….

      Yeah, I think you read them tea leaves right.

  • Further, current excessive harsh discipline under McBuckles crooked regime, has created and will create deputies like Scott Peterson, here in Los Angeles county. There were many deputies with the valor that is required to roll hard into a shots fired location, to that call of man with a gun. That deputy attitude has been deemed to be detrimental to the sheriff’s department under James McBuckles crooked regime. He has ensured that the deputies who have the valor and fortitude to shoot and kill a dangerous criminal are removed from the field, and find petty reasons to get him fired and prosecuted. So yes, there will be more Scott Petersons and less dead deputies and criminals.

    • We already had our incident with TSB and the Blue Line in Long Beach. A man was shanked to death in front of two deputies, who did nothing but watch. Sickening, I believe this happened just a few years ago, under McBuckles of course.

  • Further, current excessive harsh discipline under McBuckles crooked regime has created and will create deputies like Scott Peterson, here in Los Angeles County.

    There were many deputies with the valor that is required to roll hard into shots fired location, to that call of a man with a gun. That deputy attitude has been deemed to be detrimental to the sheriff’s department under James McBuckles crooked regime. He has ensured that the deputies who have the valor and fortitude to shoot and kill a dangerous criminal are removed from the field, and find petty reasons to get him fired and prosecuted.

    So yes, there will be more Scott Petersons and less dead deputies and criminals.

    • If the aforementioned is true and a major percentage of deputies agree, you’re basically saying that unions, specifically ALADS, will not vouch for McDonnell come endorsement or election time? I mention ALADS due the fact that most POA’s follow their lead when it comes to L.A. Sheriff’s Election.

      • ALADS and POPA are in bed with croked James McBuckles, just like they were with the Baca/Tanaka regime…remember the people running the unions are sheriff’s employees and they ride in the same car with the power brokers for personal gain, not for the collective members’ benefits who are forced to pay dues.

  • I won’t say that the Unions are in bed or even in the same car as Buckles. I know they are not. But I will say that if they did yet another survey, they would see the majority of their membership has no faith in “”Fresh Eyes Mc Buckles.” With that being said the Unions should find out who we believe would be the best Sheriff and put forth the money needed to do what it takes to unseat him and restore the Once Great LASD.

    • Going back into time won’t change anything but I remember when ALADS backed deputies and took a stand all the way to court in Orange County, re: the “sick out’s” along with standing in unison at the Hall of Administration sending a message at the same time. Back then ALADS had “Balls”. No more.

    • Sorry, not buying it. PPOA has officially thrown in the towel and bought their tickets to sit on the fence. ALADS is not far behind in this exercise in self-fulfilling prophecies. What’s amusing is listening to union leaders rationalize that because of contract negotiations, they can’t get involved. That doormat policy is exactly why we have no leverage at the negotiations table, the BOS and the CEO’s office know they are dealing with lightweights who will do nothing but grovel.

      • As of today Deputies are working without a contract while the numerous time-consuming drama continues at the table. Yes, you called it when you said that the BOS & CEO Office are dealing with lightweights……actually light flyweights who are “rank amateurs”. Boys amongst men.

  • I’m sure all the friends and families of all the law enforcement officers who lost their lives find comfort in these dubious statistics.

  • Politicians, LEO executives and the society needs a scapegoat, sacrificial lamb….a patsy to pin all the blame on, and cast out so they can say “we’ve addressed the problem and are implementing changes so this won’t happen again”. Total self-serving, politically driven tactics to protect those at the top and blame those at the bottom.

    It wasn’t too long ago, when the sentiment was to get rid of armed law enforcement from school campuses all together. I’m getting whiplash and sea-sick from the camps that say “all cops are bad, use less and dirty” to “we need them to be more aggressive when WE say so”.

    Which way do we go???

  • Can we please rename the comment section of witness la articles comment section “fox news comments”???… I mean its very similar to the white nationalist and strong conservative belief of the majority of its readers.

  • I know Brian M reads these posts. PPOA is NOT looking good to its membership. They can put out all the questioners and morale bullshit they want, but they’re not listening!!

    Enjoy your Captainship Brian, everyone knows that’s all you care about.

    • PPOA showed their true colors when they buried the morale survey at the request of McBuckles. Collusion at its worst, and with that move and a failure to get involved, PPOA has unofficially endorsed McDonnell for reelection.

      Remember that folks when the Supreme Court strikes down agency shop fees.

      • While PPOA has basically thrown in the white towel, ALADS is no different by sitting on the white picket fence. I am disappointed and disgusted to hear the woes of deputies as management has their way with them. I guarantee you that if the ruling of SCOTUS goes against public unions, ALADS will be history.

        • I agree with you 100%. I’ll take it a step further, PPOA will be history as well. Members are not going to reward a union that plays doormat when it comes to the sheriff’s election. This race is for the heart and soul of the LASD, and the Board of Supervisors loves a weak sheriff like McBuckles. It always amuses me to hear how both boards of directors believe there is some sort of negotiations benefit by bending over and taking it in the rear when it comes to electing county office holders.

          I look no further than LAPD’s PPL and their involvement in city races. No mayor or city councilperson worth two cents goes against them and their endorsement is coveted. ALADS and PPOA have dug their own graves, and the 2018 primary election will force them to lie in it. Very few will shed a tear for either union.

  • 4 to 6 spots of mandatory overtime, bullshit ROD’s with EVERY contract riding on the backs of the line. And yet we hear CRICKETS from ALADS and PPOA.

    Fucking worthless!!!

      • Crickets and barely audible whispers about ALADS vs Macias BC 540789, in May of this year. Yeah, crickets when asked to respond about the multimillion dollar based on Ron Hernandez’s (the outspoken token) personal hatred of Armando Macias using memberships money, which is a cowardly and costly.

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