Earlier this month, a friend and colleague of mine in law enforcement was shot while pursuing two individuals suspected of robbery and murder. He survived the attack, but several of our law enforcement colleagues who serve to protect the public have not been so lucky.

After a confluence of factors contributed to a decrease in violent crime throughout the U.S., dropping from historically high levels of violence in the 1980s and early 1990s, citizens in major cities throughout America have seen their exposure to violent crime drop.

Those historic drops in violence, however, have not been extended to the police officers who have greatly contributed to the effective suppression of crime throughout the nation.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), a leading metric through which both violent and property crime are calculated, issued its final report on law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in 2011. The report found that 72 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the U.S. last year, up from 56 officers killed in 2010.

The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year represented a jump of 75 percent and 50 percent from 2008 and 2009 numbers, respectively.

Some data points from the UCR report:

  • Offenders used firearms to kill 63 of the 72 slain officers. This represented an increase from 2010, when 55 law enforcement officers were killed with firearms. Of the 63 officers killed by firearms in 2011, 50 were slain by handguns, a 30 percent increase in handgun assaults over 2010.
  • The South represented the most violent region for law enforcement. Twenty-nine officers were killed in the South in 2011, 21 in the Midwest, 10 in the West, 10 in the Northeast, and two officers in Puerto Rico.
  • Nearly 55,000 law enforcement officers were assaulted in 2011, up from 53,469 in 2010. Of those assaulted in 2011, a quarter suffered injury. The increase in assaults against law enforcement came despite a drop in the total number of sworn law enforcement officers in the U.S. (698,460 in 2011, down from 705,009 in 2010).

There is scant positive data to be gleaned from the 2011 report on violence against law enforcement; however, given the relatively stable level of violent assaults on law enforcement personnel over the preceding decade, it is unclear if the recent spike in violence is a temporary aberration or the beginning of a long-term trend.