Law Enforcement Officer Line of Duty Deaths
Second Quarter of 2021
Willie Kimler MD Candidate (2024)
Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine
U.S. Law Enforcement is a dangerous job. Unexpectedly an infectious disease, COVID-19, is one of the largest threats to officers. COVID-19 is responsible for a dramatic spike in line of duty deaths (LODDs) in 2020 and is on track to do the same for 2021. As the second quarter of 2021 comes to a close, COVID-19 remains the leading cause of LODDs in the United States. This virus has impacted our world beyond belief, yet many are not aware of the effect it has on the people who spend their lives protecting us.
In 2020, 370 officers died in the line of duty. 241 or 65% of those deaths were from COVID-19, more than all other causes combined. To date in 2021, 175 officers have died in the line of duty from January 1, 2021, to July 30, 2021, mirroring statistics from 2020 LODDs. (Figure 1). To put this in context, for the ten years from 2000-2019, the average number of LODDs for an entire year was 169.
Similar to 2020, the largest absolute number of deaths (28.75% of the total) was seen in the 56–60-year age range. Clearly, much agency experience and leadership has been lost to this disease.
Although almost half of LODDs so far in 2021 are due to COVID-19, more hopeful data shows a decrease in COVID deaths from the beginning of 2021 to the summer of 2021. (Figure 2).[i]
With COVID-19 deaths in the general population appearing to rise again, it is yet to be determined if LODDs will follow suit. Like health care workers, law enforcement officers are not able to stay home. LEO COVID-19 exposures occur from contact with the public and inmates, and through community and department spread. Delta and other COVID variants, return to school, vaccination rates, and social distancing and masking practices make predictions difficult.[i]
As TEMS providers, we work to reduce the number of preventable law enforcement officer deaths. Lessons learned from this pandemic will serve us and our law enforcement partners in the future.
1 “2021.” The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), www.odmp.org/search/year/2021.