Police deaths up 13 percent in 2011

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S. jumped 13 percent this year -- 173 compared with 153 last year -- and for the first time in more than a decade more died from gunfire than by motor vehicle accident.

These figures come from the preliminary report compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks deaths of police officers. Read the full report here.


"Politicians like to take credit when crime is down but its cops on the street who pay the price for fighting crime," said Gary McLhinney, a former president of the Baltimore police union and chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The issue of police officers dying in car accidents had been a problem for the past 14 years. But this year, 68 police officers across the country were slain by gunfire, up from 59 in 2010. The reports says officers killed by guns has gone up in each of the past three years.

This year, 64 officers were killed in motor vehicle accidents, down from 71 last year. This year's accident deaths include 44 in car crashes, 11 who were struck by vehicles, seven killed while on motorcycles and two who were in their cars when hit by trains.

"Florida led the nation with 14 fatalities, closely followed by Texas (13), New York (11), California (10) and Georgia (10)," the report says. "Thirty-three percent of all officer fatalities occurred in these five states. The New York City Police Department and Puerto Rico Police Department both lost four officers — the most officers of any agency in 2011."

In Baltimore, one officer was killed this year. William Torbit Jr. The plainclothes officer was shot and killed by fellow officers who mistook him for a gunman shooting at a man attacking him. Last year, two officers were killed in car crashes -- one who rear-ended a city fire truck and another on a road in Pennsylvania.

The report does not reach any conclusions about why the increased number of gun-related fatalities, but does note that twice gunmen opened fire on groups of police officers:

"Of the 68 officers killed by gunfire this year, 14 officers died while attempting to arrest suspects. Nine officers each died responding to domestic disturbance calls or while investigating suspicious persons and circumstances.

"Other officers were shot while handling mentally deranged persons (2) , tactical/hostage/barricaded offender situations (2) , handling/transporting and custody of prisoners (2) and in traffic pursuits (1). Four multiple-fatality, "cluster-killing" incidents (when two or more officers were shot and killed) occurred in 2011 — two in Florida (St. Petersburg and Miami-Dade), one incident in Grundy, VA and one incident in Rapid City, SD."