- FBI report shows 56 killed in confrontations with criminals
- "This is a devastating and unacceptable trend," attorney general says
- The number may be higher this year, Holder and FBI chief say
Fifty-six law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2010, the FBI reported Monday. That's up from 48 shot and killed the previous year.
The new statistics for calendar year 2010 show that 72 other police officers were accidentally killed last year, mostly in vehicle crashes.
The FBI report says all but one of the 56 were shot with firearms. In one case the officer was run down by a vehicle. The killings occurred in 22 states and Puerto Rico.
Of the officers killed in the line of duty, 15 were ambushed, 14 were shot in arrest situations, seven were performing traffic stops, and six were answering disturbance calls.
Figures for 2011 are not yet publicly available, but Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller indicated the numbers could continue to rise as they spoke separately to a convention of the nation's police chiefs in Chicago.
"Law enforcement fatalities are nearly 20 percent higher than this time last year. And gunfire deaths have increased by nearly 30 percent," Holder said.
"Today, line-of-duty officer deaths are approaching the highest rates we've seen in almost two decades," Holder told the police chiefs. "This is a devastating and unacceptable trend, and each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day."
Mueller, noting the 56 deaths "as a result of adversarial action" in 2010, added, "And given this year's statistics ... that number may grow even higher."
The Obama administration is attempting to walk a fine line between assuring citizens it is helping keep the public safe and warning of the dangers if their police funding proposals are not approved by Congress. Holder noted the Obama administration's request for $4 billion for police departments has been whittled to only $200 million by the Democratic-controlled Senate and to zero by the Republican-controlled House.
Vice President Joe Biden created a controversy last week in Flint, Michigan, when he declared that crime is soaring there because of police cuts and that it would get worse if Republicans blocked proposed spending for law enforcement officers. Official figures seem to dispute the vice president's assertions, but Biden insisted his contention was accurate, citing figures provided by a senior Flint police official.