Coronavirus Pandemic

Law Enforcement Fatalities Spiked in 2021. COVID-19 Was the Leading Cause of Death

The number of officers who died in 2021 totaled 458, a 55% jump from 2020

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty across the United States last year totaled 458, a 55% increase from 2020, the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund said in a report released Tuesday.

COVID-19 was the leading cause of death, with the disease killing 301 federal, state, tribal and local officers, the report said.

The number represented a dramatic jump in 50 years of data included in the report. Just one decade — the 1970s — had an average number of fatalities that surpassed 200.

Criminal assaults accounted for 84 deaths in 2021, including 62 who were killed by gunfire. Traffic incidents were responsible for 58 fatalities. The number of gunfire and traffic deaths both rose from the year before, the report says. The number of officers killed in "ambush-style attacks" also rose: 19 last year, up from six in 2020.

Read the full story on NBCNews.com here. 

Generally, the fewer COVID-19 vaccines a state administered, the higher its COVID death rate in 2021. The hard-hit states also tended to have fewer restrictions that reduce spread of the coronavirus. NBCLX Political Editor Noah Pransky breaks down the data.
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