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Number of Police Who Died on Duty Declines Nationwide

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via YellowBrix

December 29, 2009

While Western Pennsylvania mourned the deaths of four police officers this year, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty nationwide fell to a 50-year low, according to a new report.

The decline — 124 officers died on duty this year compared to 133 in 2008 — was offset by a spike in the number of shooting deaths, which includes the slayings of a Penn Hills police officer earlier this month and three city officers in April.

Nationally, 48 police officers were shot and killed this year, nine more than in 2008, according to the report by a police group, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The report also was issued by the nonprofit organization Concerns of Police Survivors.

Nearly a third of those shooting deaths took place in just five incidents, including the April 4 ambush of Zone 5 officers Eric G. Kelly, Paul J. Sciullo II and Stephen J. Mayhle — the deadliest day in Pittsburgh police history.

The trio were fatally shot in Stanton Heights while responding to a domestic disturbance, the kind of call that proved especially dangerous for officers this year, resulting in 11 deaths nationally. Unprovoked ambush attacks, the report says, resulted in the deaths of six officers.

The report also noted the high-profile killings of four Oakland, Calif., officers in March, four Lakewood, Wash., officers in November, and the death this month of Penn Hills officer Michael Crawshaw.

Despite Sept. 11, 2001, when 72 officers died, the deadliest single day for police, the decade was among the safest for law enforcement. Still, the report offered little solace for some members of Pittsburgh’s force, which has taken measures to upgrade training and equipment for officers since the shootings.

“The pain of the heartbreaking losses of our brother officers,” remains “very fresh,” Assistant Chief William Bochter wrote in an e-mail last night. “We still feel the void of their absence on every shift, every day, in every duty location throughout the city. If the trend in the line of duty deaths continues to fall, it means that other departments and other families will be spared that pain.”

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