California appears to be bucking two nationwide trends in deaths among law enforcement officers: a 14 percent rise across the country in the number of deaths from January through June and a spike in firearm-related deaths during the same period.
The preliminary data comes from the annual midyear report on officer fatalities from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is available as a PDF here. So far this year, 98 officers have died across the country -- 12 more than in the first half of 2010. The fund's chairman Craig Floyd told USA Today that budget cuts are "putting communities at risk and officers at risk."
But in California, just four officers died between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year. That's down during the same period from nine in 2010 and six in 2009.
The statewide totals for those years: In 2010, 11 officers died in the line of duty; seven died in 2009.
One of the highlights from the latest report is that officer deaths due to gunfire has reached its highest level in the United States in 20 years.
"For 13 years in a row, traffic-related incidents have been the leading cause of officer fatalities, but for the first half of 2011, firearms-related fatalities have out-paced traffic-related fatalities as the primary cause of law enforcement deaths, with 40 officers shot and killed," the report says.
Three of the deaths in California were traffic-related: a motorcycle officer in Hawthorne who collided with a squad car during a funeral procession for another law enforcement officer, a California Highway Patrol officer who died after his patrol car was sideswiped and a Cathedral City police officer who struck a palm tree during a pursuit.
A fifth officer from Alhambra died earlier this month when two patrol cars responding to a robbery hit each other. That death occurred too late to be included in the report.
Four states saw more deaths than California did through the end of June. In both Florida and Texas, 10 officers died in the line of duty. In New York, eight died; in Ohio, seven.
PHOTO CREDIT: Police officers, friends and family members from throughout California attended and participated in the 35th Annual California Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony for fallen officers at the California Peace Officers Memorial Monument in Sacramento on May 2. (Renée C. Byer / Sacramento Bee).
EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this posted noted all four officer deaths in California in the first half of this year were traffic-related. In fact, four of the five deaths since Jan. 1 were traffic-related.