253600 Occupational homicides of law enforcement officers in the United States, 1996-2009

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:30 PM

David Swedler, MPH , Department of Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Pulbic Health, Baltimore, MD
Molly Simmons, BA , Department of Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Cassandra Kercher, MPH , Department of Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Keshia Pollack, PhD, MPH , Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Background: Law enforcement officers (LEOs) have an occupational fatality rate five times greater than the national average; over half of these deaths are occupational homicides. Since workplace risk for LEOs primarily results from the volatile circumstances surrounding the apprehension of criminal suspects, it is important to understand the circumstances of these homicides so law enforcement agencies can better protect their personnel. Methods: We conducted a narrative text analysis of the FBI's annual “Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted” reports from 1996 to 2009. Occupational fatality rates were calculated for each year using data from the 1996-2009 Current Population Survey. Descriptive analysis will be conducted on officer age, sex and experience; weapon used (with further analysis of firearm usage); body armor; location of the fatal wound; and interactions with suspect(s). Results: A total of 757 officers were killed in police actions between 1996 and 2009. The occupational homicide rate during the time peaked in 2001 at 3.76/100,000 (excluding those officers killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and was lowest in 2008 at 1.92/100,000. Initial secondary analysis found that the majority of LEOs were killed by short-barrel firearms (often by their own service weapon); the most frequent encounter with a suspect prior to a homicide was a traffic stop. Conclusions: Law enforcement officers in the United States face a unique occupational homicide risk not found in other professions. These results suggest a need for stronger officer protections, policies and procedures as they interact with suspects, especially when firearms are involved.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
1) Expand the current knowledge on an under-researched population. 2) Apply the method of narrative text analysis to homicide reports. 3) Enumerate the various situations leading up to occupational homicides of law enforcement officers. 4) Assess how firearms are used in homicides of law enforcement officers.

Keywords: Violence Prevention, Methodology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a NIOSH fellow in occupational injury epidemiology and have experience presenting and publishing studies on traumatic injury.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.