FBI finds ‘alarming uptick in violence against law enforcement’

Highest rate in five years, data shows
Members of the Holly Springs community and neighboring police departments gather at Barrett Park for a candlelight vigil for Police Officer Joe Burson on Friday, June 18 after he was killed during a traffic stop.(Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Members of the Holly Springs community and neighboring police departments gather at Barrett Park for a candlelight vigil for Police Officer Joe Burson on Friday, June 18 after he was killed during a traffic stop.(Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed by violence while in the line of duty has reached the highest rate in five years, according to FBI data released this week.

From Jan. 1 through Oct. 12, 59 officers had died due to felonious acts, up from 39 at the same time last year, the FBI data shows. Accidental deaths, such as cases stemming from a crash, were at 46 this year, up from 37 in 2020.

“What we’re seeing this year is an alarming uptick in violence against law enforcement, and it’s something that deserves way more attention than it’s getting,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during National Police Week. “We are looking at now 59 officers or agents murdered in the line of duty this year. That’s an over 50 percent increase from (the same time) last year.

“That basically translates to every five days — more often than every five days in this country — an officer is murdered in the line of duty. And that’s totally unacceptable, and it’s a tragedy and it needs attention,” he said.

According to numbers reported to the FBI by 9,895 agencies around the country, 60,105 law enforcement officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2020. That marks an increase of 4,071 officers assaulted than the 56,034 assaults reported in 2019.

While the majority of all officer deaths have occurred in the South, Georgia’s numbers aren’t showing the same increase. Five of the state’s officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, compared with seven in 2020.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tracks the deaths of officers killed while serving. The Officers Down Memorial Page also compiles deaths. During the past two years, the coronavirus is blamed for the majority of all law enforcement deaths. Medical-related deaths are not included in the FBI’s tally.

Of the five killed in Georgia this year, two were shot, one was stabbed, one was dragged by a vehicle and the other was hit by a vehicle while responding to a crash. The five, all men, ranged in age from 24 to 48.

On Jan. 2, a 44-year-old DeKalb County police sergeant was killed when he was struck by a vehicle on the Downtown Connector. Sgt. Daniel Mobley, a 22-year veteran of the department, was hit by a car about 9 a.m. while responding to a crash involving another DeKalb officer near the Williams Street exit.

Metro Atlanta lost a second officer on June 16, when a Holly Springs police officer was killed after he was dragged by a vehicle during an attempted traffic stop, according to the GBI.

The officer, 24-year-old Joe Burson, was the first from the Holly Springs Police Department killed in the line of duty, according to the Officers Down Memorial Page.

Most recently, Dylan Harrison, 26, was shot to death Oct. 9 while working his first part-time shift for the Alamo Police Department in Wheeler County. Harrison, who is survived by a wife and 6-month-old child, was also a full-time Oconee Drug Task Force agent in nearby Dodge County.

“I have never experienced the grief that I have felt since Officer Dylan Harrison’s life was taken in our small, quiet town,” Alamo police Chief Karen Zanders said during a news conference the following day.

Alamo police Officer Dylan Harrison, 26, was shot and killed during his first shift.

Credit: McRae-Helena Police Department

icon to expand image

Credit: McRae-Helena Police Department

Harrison was on duty when he made contact with a man about a traffic violation in the parking lot of a Circle K convenience store across the street from the police department, GBI Special Agent Lindsey Wilkes said. The officer asked the man for his name and the man refused to provide it, she said.

The confrontation escalated to a fight during which the man pushed Harrison, officials said. Harrison arrested the man and took him to the Wheeler County Jail. The officer was later shot and killed in a suspected act of retaliation, according to investigators. Three people were later arrested.

“Law enforcement officers these days are dealing with a whole range of threats at a time when, in many ways, the job is more dangerous than ever,” Wray said. “Whether it’s responding to some volatile domestic violence call or a traffic stop or executing a search warrant or arrest, the dangers are very real and constant.”


U.S. OFFICER DEATHS BY VIOLENCE

2021: 59 (through Oct. 14)

2020: 46

2019: 48

2018: 57

2017: 46

Source: FBI

About the Author