Mariel Garza

A full accounting of officers killed in the line of duty

Deputy editorial page editor

Mariel Garza


On Sunday, The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board applauded Congress for passing of the Death in Custody Reporting Act, noting that it was high time the nation started collecting data on people killed while being arrested.

In conjunction with that editorial and the murder of New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos this weekend, some readers wondered why we hadn’t called for the full accounting of officers killed in the line of duty.

The answer is that we don’t need to because that accounting already exists.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been collecting data about law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty since 1937 and publishing reports on that data in exhaustively detailed studies for about 40 years.

The 2013 report, for instance, notes that 27 officers – 25 men and two women – died from injuries they received during the course of felonious events. The data drill deep into each incident starting with race and age of those killed down to whether they were wearing body armor, what sorts of weapons were used against the officer and even what time of day the incident occurred.

The reports also include short narratives of the incidents, such as the story of a Galt police officer shot to death in January of that year by a burglary suspect.

Though nothing can fully protect an officer from the risk of the important job of public safety, the data collections aid criminal justice researchers and law enforcement officials in developing strategies to minimize officer deaths