The number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty so far this year has jumped from the same period last year.
Sixty-seven law enforcement officers, including one from Utah, were killed in the line of duty in the first half of 2014, amounting to a 31 percent increase from the same period last year, according to a report published Tuesday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Of the 67 officers, 26 died in traffic-related accidents, and another 25 were killed by gunfire. Both of those figures represent increases from 2013, when 51 officers were killed — 19 in traffic-related accidents and 16 by gunfire.
Though there has been a gradual decrease in law enforcement deaths since a peak in the mid-1970s, fund chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd called this year’s spike "alarming."
"The sharp rise in officers killed by gunfire — many in ambush-style attacks — as well as a significant increase in fatal on-duty heart attacks reminds us that much more work needs to be done to improve officer safety and wellness," Floyd said in a statement.
Fund spokesman Steve Groeninger added that proper physical and mental training is the most important factor in preventing fatalities of law enforcement officers.
"Law enforcement officers’ jobs are very challenging. They have to see things that we wouldn’t wish anyone to have to see," Groeninger said. "There is definitely a need for both mental and physical fitness."
The lone Utah law enforcement officer killed in the line this year was Utah County sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride. A 19-year veteran, Wride was gunned down by an ex-convict wielding a high-powered rifle during a traffic stop Jan. 30. Wride, 44, left behind a wife and five children.
Wride and Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, 32, who was shot to death in an ambush Sept. 1, had their names added to the Utah Fallen Officer Memorial in Salt Lake City in a ceremony in May. Theirs were the 136th and 137th names added to the wall.
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