“COVID-19 is absolutely devastating police departments around the country,” said Singer, also deputy director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Mandel School. “I’m certain there are local departments that have been ravaged by this disease, as well as our hospitals’ staff, firemen and EMS. We need to do everything we can to promote healthy, safe first responders.”
The data does not include how many police officers were forced to miss work days because of COVID-19. However, the NLEOMF report noted that 145 police officers nationally died from complications related to the novel coronavirus. The organization verifies each reported death, according to its website.
COVID-19-related fatalities were the single highest cause of officer line-of-duty deaths in 2020.
“By far,” Singer said. “It’s not even close.”
The data—which includes federal, state, military, tribal and local law enforcement officers—highlighted an increase in fatalities by 96% from the 135 officers killed during the same 12-month period in 2019.
Singer noted that, in typical years, the causes of death for police officers are varied, ranging from automobile crashes and heart attacks to gun violence and other physical violence. He said there are several key factors why COVID-19 is the current leading cause of police officer deaths.
“For starters, there’s no social distancing when you’re a police officer,” he said. “We know that this virus is the most contagious in tight quarters. Then you add in that these officers often work in enclosed environments.”
Singer suggested police officers should be moved to the front of the line for vaccinations. Increased personal protective equipment (PPE) would also help, he said.