WASHINGTON - The number of law enforcement officers killed by firearms jumped by 56 percent this year and included 15 ambush deaths. But gun-related police deaths still remain far below historic highs and lower than the average annual figures in the last decade, according to a report released Tuesday.
The annual report by the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 50 officers were killed by guns this year. That's far higher than the 32 such deaths last year but the same as 2012 figures.
In 2011, 73 officers were killed by gunfire, the most in any year in the last decade. The average since 2004 is 55 police deaths annually.
In all, the report found that 126 federal, local, tribal, and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. That's a 24 percent jump from last year's 102 on-duty deaths, though below the average annual figures since 2004 and the all-time high of 156 in 1973, said Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the memorial fund.
Of the 126 officer deaths this year, shootings were the leading cause, followed by traffic-related fatalities, at 49.
This year's increase in gun-related deaths among officers followed a dramatic dip in 2013, when the figure fell to levels not seen since the 19th century. This year's uptick comes amid increased tension between police and the public after the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers.
The states that saw the most officer deaths were California, at 14; Texas, at 11; and New York, at nine. Florida followed with six deaths, and Georgia had five, according to the report.
The 15 ambush assaults on police officers this year compares with just five in 2013, but matched 2012 for the highest total since 1995, the report said.
"With the increasing number of ambush-style attacks against our officers, I am deeply concerned that a growing antigovernment sentiment in America is influencing weak-minded individuals to launch violent assaults against the men and women working to enforce our laws," said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO of the memorial fund.
He added: "We need to tone down the rhetoric and rally in support of law enforcement and against lawlessness."
In September, two Pennsylvania State Police troopers were ambushed and shot outside the police barracks in Blooming Grove. The hunt for the alleged killer, Eric Frein, lasted almost seven weeks before he was captured in late October.
Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson, 38, was killed and Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 31, was wounded.
Frein was hit with terrorism charges in November for allegedly admitting that he shot the officers to change the government and "wake people up."
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of police officers killed by guns this year. That's far higher than
the 32 such deaths
last year but the same
as 2012 figures.
Number of federal, local, tribal, and territorial officers killed in the line of duty in 2014. The all-time high is 156 in 1973.
SOURCE: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund