Police deaths down in 2009: report

Law enforcement line-of-duty deaths in 2009 dropped to their lowest level in 50 years, according to a preliminary report (.pdf file) from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Total law enforcement fatalities decreased about 6 percent to 125 last year -- the fewest since 1959, when 108 deaths were recorded, NLEOMF said. Traffic incidents, the No. 1 cause of officer death, fell 21 percent from 2008 to 2009 -- from 71 to 56. This is the second year traffic-related fatalities have fallen; the 2009 figure represents the lowest since 1996.

Gunfire-related fatalities, however, rose 26 percent to 49 in 2009 from 39 in 2008. These include the March slayings of four California officers following a traffic stop and subsequent barricade situation, and four Washington state officers killed in a coffee shop before their shift in November.

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