(Reuters) - The number of U.S. police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2011 rose 13 percent from 2010, marking another annual increase in law enforcement fatalities in recent years.
According to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 173 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were killed in 2011, up from 153 in 2010.
While that is a 13 percent increase over last year, it’s a 42 percent increase from 2009 when 122 officers were killed.
“Departments across the country have mourned the loss of too many dedicated colleagues and friends, but my colleagues and I at the Justice Department are determined to turn back this rising tide,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I want to assure the family members and loved ones who have mourned the loss of these heroes that we are responding to this year’s increased violence with renewed vigilance and will do everything within our power -- and use every tool at our disposal -- to keep our police officers safe.”
The Department of Justice said it has new programs, training and initiatives to help make police officers safe, and will continue its commitment to help families of law enforcement officers, especially in times of tragedy.
According to the release, gunfire was the number one cause of death, claiming 68 lives, a near-record high.
Traffic-related accidents killed 64 officers. Other causes of police deaths included job-related illnesses, falls, drownings and stabbings.
Fourteen officers were killed in Florida, more than any other state, followed by Texas, New York, California and Georgia.
“Drastic budget cuts affecting law enforcement agencies across the country have put our officers at grave risk,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund chairman Craig Floyd.
“At a time when officers are facing a more cold-blooded criminal element and fighting a war on terror, we are cutting vital resources necessary to ensure their safety and the safety of the innocent citizens they protect.”
By the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report released in October. And nearly 30,000 law enforcement jobs are unfilled.
Reporting by Karin Matz; Editing by Jerry Norton