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U.S. police deaths up 14% so far in 2011, report says

By Chelsea Bailey, CNN
  • Ninety-eight police officers killed in U.S. in first half of 2011, law enforcement group says
  • Firearm incidents are the primary cause of police deaths
  • More than 90 officers have been killed in the line of duty already this year

(CNN) -- Law enforcement fatality figures nationwide have climbed during the first half of 2011, according to a preliminary report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Ninety-eight officers were killed in the line of duty in the first six months of this year, the organization said in a news release Wednesday. The number represents a 14% spike in officer fatalities compared to the same time frame in 2010.

Steve Groeniger, senior director of communications for the fund, said the spike was significant given that 2010 was a particularly hard year for officers.

"The real takeaway for us here is that in addition to fatalities across the board being up 14% ... what really rises to the top is gunfire fatalities," Groeniger said.

Firearm fatalities have reached a 20-year high, replacing traffic accidents as the primary cause of law enforcement deaths, the report said. Forty officers were killed in firearms-related incidents in the first half of 2011, compared to 30 officers in all of 2010.

Thirty-five officers were killed in traffic-related fatalities. In all, traffic and firearms deaths accounted for 77% of all law enforcement fatalities in the first half of this year, the report says.

Florida and Texas have the most officer fatalities in the nation. For the period covered by the report, 10 officers had died in each state. By Wednesday, each state's death toll had gone up to 11. Groeniger said Florida and Texas tend to rank high on the list each year.

The National Law Enforcement Museum and Memorial is located in Washington and serves as a nationwide clearinghouse of information and statistics on law enforcement line-of-duty deaths, according to its website. Researchers with the memorial fund verify each fatality through police department officials, Groeniger said. The organization issues a midyear report ahead of a final tally of officer fatalities each year.

On Monday, actor Clint Eastwood was named honorary chairman for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum.

In a news release announcing the partnership, Eastwood said on average, an officer is killed every 53 hours in the line of duty in America -- yet despite the risks, more than 800,000 officers protect and serve their communities.

"I am deeply honored to help tell their heroic story of service and sacrifice," he said. "Thousands of real-life, sworn law enforcement officers never make it home. We owe those who have fallen, and all of our nation's law enforcement officers, a huge debt of gratitude."