The number of police officers killed in the line of duty in 2021 hit a record high, exacerbating challenges inside police departments already dealing with staffing shortages, COVID-19 and skyrocketing crime rates.
More police officers have died in 2021 than any other year in U.S. history, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The latest occurred Thursday when a Baltimore officer was ambushed and died.
In 2021, estimates range from 358 to 477 officers killed in the line of duty. Both numbers are still significantly higher than previous years. Using preliminary data, compared to 2020, firearms-related fatalities are up 31% and traffic-related fatalities are up 30%.
Notably, of the 29 Border Patrol agents who passed away, 27 deaths were due to contracting the virus in the line of duty.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data shows 70 police officers have been feloniously killed in 2021, an increase of more than 50% in one year. A November FBI report stated that unprovoked attacks, where an officer is killed without having had official contact with the offender, "continued to outpace all other circumstances of felonious officer deaths."
"Ambush-style attacks" were up 126% at the beginning of December from the previous year, the Fraternal Order of Police reported.
Crime rates across the country are skyrocketing as well. Homicides have risen 30% from 2019 to 2020, according to provisional CDC data. Murders increased even more in 2021. Twelve cities hit homicide records in December 2021, according to ABC News.
“Nobody’s getting arrested anymore," former New York Police Department detective Robert Boyce said. "People are getting picked up for gun possession, and they're just let out over and over again."
Many officers quit following the 2020 summer of riots associated with Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd. One study over the summer found that "Officers resigned at a 279% increased rate."