Early numbers released by the FBI today show that the number of police officers killed while on duty last year jumped 89 percent compared with 2013.
Last year, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty in the U.S., compared with the 27 officers who were killed in 2013—which was the lowest number that had been recorded since 1980, when the Bureau started tracking police killings.
Between 1980–2014, there has been an average of 64 officers killed per year.
The FBI's preliminary report comes just after two officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were shot and killed this weekend. Four suspects are in custody in that case.
Full details and final statistics about police shootings in 2014 will be released in the fall, said the FBI in a statement.
Police shootings have received increased attention in the nation since two New York Police Department officers were killed in an ambush-style shooting in late December. That shooting happened amidst widespread demonstrations sparked by the non-indictment of NYPD officers involved in the death of Eric Garner.
In the aftermath of that shooting, the National Fraternal Order of Police, a national police union with a membership around 300,000, called for police killings to be included in national hate crimes statutes. A White House spokesman at the time said the proposal was “something that we’ll have to consider.”
Three more NYPD officers have been shot since the December incident, the latest of which happened late last month. The officer in that case, Brian Moore, died from the wound. A suspect, 30-year-old Erik Jansen, has been arrested and charged but has not yet offered a plea.
Radley Balko at the Washington Post recently attempted to put some of these tragedies in the context of a general downward trend.
"About half as many cops are killed on the job today as in 1968, despite the fact that there are significantly more cops on the street," Balko wrote. The numbers he cites are from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which has tracked officer deaths (accidents and homicides grouped together) since 1791, when the group was founded.
The country's population has increased by 115 million people since then, he notes.
Out of the 51 police killed in 2014, offenders used firearms in 46 cases, reports the FBI. Thirty-two cases involved handguns, 11 involved a rifle, and shotguns were used in three incidents.
Four officers were killed with "vehicles used as weapons," and one officer was killed "with the offender's personal weapons," meaning that “hands, fists, feet, etc.” were used in the attack.
"By region, 17 officers died as a result of criminal acts that occurred in the South, 14 officers in the West, eight officers in the Midwest, eight in the Northeast, and four in Puerto Rico," noted the FBI.
There was also a total of 44 officers who were accidentally killed while on duty last year, the preliminary report notes, a number which was down by five deaths since the previous year. The most common cause of an accidental death was car and motorcycle accidents. Two officers were killed by "accidental shootings."
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.