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Attacks on law enforcement increased, but fewer were killed in 2023, according to new federal data

Attacks on law enforcement increased, but fewer were killed in 2023, according to new federal data

Washington — Sixty law enforcement officers across the country were killed in the line of duty last year — a decrease of one from the year prior — but assaults on officers in the field are on the rise, driven by increases in gun violence, according to an FBI report released Tuesday. 

The statistics were collected from law enforcement agencies across the country — including state, local, and tribal precincts — and showed a slight decrease in overall officer deaths, continuing the downward trend from the recent high in 2021 of 73 officers killed in the line of duty. 

Still, according to the report, the last three years (2021-2023) saw the highest collective number of law enforcement deaths “than any other consecutive 3-year period in the past 20 years.” 

In all, 52% of the officers who were killed in the line of duty died from a gunshot wound in 2023, a slight increase from 2022, and firearms were the most commonly used weapons. More officers were killed in the South, which is the largest region in the country, than in any other part of the U.S., the FBI said, although the South did see a significant decrease in overall officer deaths — 20 in 2023 compared to 32 in 2022. 

An FBI officIal told reporters Tuesday that although the number of officers killed in action over the last three years has dropped, there has at the same time been a steady rise in assaults on law enforcement. The official said the FBI is working to understand the underlying reasons for that inverse trend. 

Based on preliminary data, according to the report, “10,884 agencies employing 600,120 officers reported 79,091 assaults of officers, indicating a rate of 13.2 assaults per 100 officers.” 

In 2023, the number of law enforcement officers assaulted by firearms reached about 466, a 10-year high, the FBI said.

The report’s release comes as the nation marks National Police Week. On Monday night, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other law enforcement leaders attended a candlelight vigil on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to honor fallen law enforcement officers throughout the country. 

Last month, four members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force were shot and killed trying to arrest a fugitive wanted for firearms charges. In all, eight officers were shot.

One suspect died on the scene and two others were taken into custody. 

4 officers killed in North Carolina shooting


Speaking at a memorial for Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks, one of the fallen, earlier this month, Garland said the officers’ deaths “stand as a stark reminder of the enormous risks our law enforcement officers face every day, even when making the relatively routine arrests they make every day.”

“Every day our law enforcement officers go to work knowing that day may be their last. Every day their families send them off to work, praying it will not be.” 

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