Safer Streets? Fewer On-Duty Officers Slain
Number Of Police Officers Killed, Assaulted Dips

The streets may be getting a little safer for police officers.

New statistics from the FBI show a slight drop in the number killed on the job last year, and a bigger drop in assaults.

Fifty-five officers died in the line of duty in 2005, most of them while working for city police departments. The report refers to the officers as "feloniously killed." Traffic duty was the deadliest job, with 15 killed in pursuits or after pulling someone over.

About 1,800 fewer officers were assaulted on the job last year, compared to 2004. Of those 57,546 who were, the FBI said many worked the overnight and found themselves dealing with things like domestic disputes and bar fights.

Of the deaths, 28 of the officer slayings occurred in the South, 10 in the West, 10 in the Midwest, and 5 in the Northeast. Two of the deaths took place in Puerto Rico, the report said.


Felonious Deaths

The 55 felonious line-of-duty deaths took place during 53 separate incidents, according to the report. Police officers were killed in 24 states and Puerto Rico. The number of officers feloniously killed in 2005 decreased by two compared with the 2004 figure (57 officers). A 5-year comparison showed a decrease of 15 line-of-duty deaths compared with the 2001 number (70 officers) and a decrease of 6 compared with the 1996 figure (61 officers).

Among the officers who were feloniously killed, the average age was 37 years. They had served in law enforcement for an average of 10 years at the time of the fatal incidents. Fifty-four of the slain officers were male; 47 officers were white; and 8 were black.

Of the 55 slain officers, 15 were handling traffic pursuits or traffic stops. Eight of the officers who were killed were handling arrests, and another 8 were ambushed, according to the report. Seven of the slain officers were answering disturbance calls, and another seven were investigating suspicious people. Of the remaining 10 officers who were slain in the line of duty, four were pursuing investigative activities, such as surveillance; three were in tactical situations (e.g., high-risk entry); 2 were handling what the report referred to as "mentally deranged persons"; and one had custody of a prisoner for transport.

Killers used firearms to take the lives of 50 of the officers. Of these 50 officers, 42 were slain with handguns, 5 with shotguns, and 3 with rifles.

The report said that 15 of the 55 victim officers who were slain fired their own weapons during the fatal incidents, and six officers attempted to use their own weapons during the incidents. Five officers were slain when hit by vehicles that the offenders used as weapons, the report said.

Law enforcement agencies identified 57 alleged assailants in connection with the 55 line-of-duty deaths. All of the suspects were male, and 54 of them had previous criminal arrest records.


Accidental Deaths


Sixty-seven law enforcement officers were killed in accidents while performing their duties. Automobile accidents claimed the highest number -- 39 -- of accidental line-of-duty deaths.


Assaults


Law enforcement agencies in the United States reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program that 57,546 officers were assaulted while performing their duties. The largest percentage of victim officers, 30.5 percent, were assaulted while responding to disturbance calls like family quarrels or bar fights.

The smallest percentage of assaulted officers, 0.3 percent, were assaulted during ambush situations. The report said that assailants used personal weapons, including hands, fists, feet, and other objects, in 80 percent of the incidents, firearms in 3.7 percent of the incidents, and knives or cutting instruments in 1.8 percent of the incidents. In 14.4 percent of the assaults, other types of weapons were used.

The FBI's assault data were collected from 10,032 law enforcement agencies nationwide, serving 75 percent of the population.