ASU Study: Number Of Police Line-Of-Duty Deaths Plummet In Last 50 Years

By Casey Kuhn, Steve Goldstein
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Friday, May 3, 2019 - 8:20am
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A new study out of Arizona State University shows there are fewer police dying on duty now than 50 years ago.

Principal researcher Michael White, professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, wanted to look into the data behind police deaths in the wake of police and community relations after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.

“A lot of the focus has been on police killings of citizens," he said. "There’s also been kind of a parallel dialogue about citizen attacks on police, and whether violence against police officers has decreased.”

White calls the latter the “war on cops” rhetoric. White found a 75 percent drop in police officers killed in the line of duty, either by accident or by murder and assault. He and his team looked at data from 1970-2016.

The data White used came from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

“The story that I see is that policing is much safer now than it has been in any time in the last 150 years,” he said.

White says that’s likely, in part, because of advanced emergency care, better police training and body armor.

White said the study also broke down the statistics by state.  

"One of the most remarkable findings from that analysis is how stable things are," he said. "The states that had the most police officer deaths back in 1970 were the states that had the most deaths more recently. They're the biggest states with the most number of police officers."

California was the state with the most police officer deaths in that time period. Large states like New York, Texas and Florida also topped the list. The states with the fewest deaths included Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maine.

The study did not look at non-fatal attacks or injuries. White said a next step would be including those statistics in another study.

“There’s no question that policing is a dangerous profession," he said. "The point of the article, I think, is if you look at these longer trends, things have gotten much more safe.”

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