By Kevin T. Maass, Center for Officer Safety and Wellness, IACP
n 2012, the law enforcement community laid to rest 54 fellow officers who were killed feloniously. Despite the tragedy in every incident, it is important that the circumstances surrounding these murders are reported and reviewed. The situational information about each incident can provide insight that may assist in dictating future law enforcement policies and procedures to prevent the loss of more officers.
Place and Time
In 2012, 28 states and 2 territories saw at least one officer murdered as a result of felonious killing; however, no state reported more than three officer murders during this time period (excluding the territory of Puerto Rico). The reports revealed that nearly half of all law enforcement killings occurred in the southern region of the United States (26 killings), concentrated in the south Atlantic division (12 killings).
The time of day in which the murders took place was nearly even between day and night occurrences. During the nighttime (8:01 p.m.–8:00 a.m.), 25 officers were killed by assailants; the daytime added only four more killings to that total.
One of the most valuable pieces of information recorded for these incidents is the call type that ended with an officer’s death. The number one call type resulting in a fatality by an assailant was incidents in which an officer was responding to arrest situations, including warrants (12 murders). During 2012, instances involving traffic pursuit or stops resulted in the murder of 10 officers. Unprovoked ambushes by assailants resulted in the felonious killings of 7 officers.
A total of 9 female and 45 male law enforcement officers were murdered in 2012. Although the average age of the officer was 38.19 years old , almost half were under the age of 35. Only two officers were killed while off duty; however, these officers were continuing their work in some capacity or were killed because of their association to law enforcement. Another valuable characteristic available within the data is the years of service provided by these officers. Despite the average officer spending close to 11 years within the law enforcement community, 29 of 53 officers (54.7 percent) had fewer than 10 years of service; of those 29, only 14 had between 1 and 5 years of experience.
In 2012, all assailants were men with an average age slightly older than 31 years; however, a majority (57.4 percent) was under the age of 30. Of these assailants, 20 died before charges could even be filed (12 were killed by police officers and 8 took their own lives). Nineteen assailants were charged with murder or under murder-related statutes, and only two assailants were at large.
The weapon used by the assailant to murder a police officer is an important statistic, as it can assist in specific policies that will combat future felonious killings. Firearms were the most commonly used weapons to murder police; nearly 80 percent of all deaths involved a gun. Among assailants who used a firearm, two-thirds gunned down police with a handgun and slightly more than 20 percent used a rifle or semiautomatic rifle.
Note: Personal Weapon refers to individuals using their hands,
feet, and so forth to commit the murder.
In conclusion, the 2012 data from the felonious killings of police officers show some distinct trends that can be extrapolated:
- The southern region of the United States had the highest number of officer murders.
- The killings occur equally despite the time of day.
- A majority of officers lost their lives responding to arrest situations, during traffic pursuits or stops, or through unprovoked ambushes.
- The fallen officers were more likely to be male around the age of 38 years old with 11 years of experience.
- The assailants were all men averaging 31 years old, using either a handgun or a rifle (including semiautomatic) during the killings.
- The assailants either died before being taken into custody or received a murder charge after their arrests.
This information is intended to present a basic description of officers who died in 2012 while serving their communities. It is the hope that these data will inform police departments of the past situations and assist with future discussions concerning officer safety. ♦
Please cite as:
Kevin T. Maass, "Data from Officer Deaths Can Inform Improved Safety Measures," Officer Safety Corner, The Police Chief 80 (March 2013): 16–17.