Gun-related officer killings leading cause of death

Clay County deputy killed in line of duty Thursday

Published On: Feb 17 2012 03:39:23 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 17 2012 03:41:42 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The tragedy of a Clay County deputy killed in a meth lab raid Thursday serves as a reminder that law enforcement is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 173 officers nationwide were killed in the line of duty in 2011. In 2010, 153 officers were killed. That's an increase of 13 percent in one year.

For 13 years in a row, the majority of officers who died on the job died in traffic accidents. But that changed last year.

In 2011, the primary cause of death for police officers was gunfire. There were 68 officers in the U.S. who died from gunshots. That's a near-record high for the decade.

In Florida, seven officers died after being shot last year.

Before Detective David White was killed Thursday, the last law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty in Florida was Lakeland police Officer Arnulfo Crispin, who died in December. He was shot by a suspect while frisking another suspect in a park.

Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson, a veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said nearly every call can turn dangerous. He said officers steel themselves for the particular dangers involved with raiding a meth lab, like White did.

"You always expect it to be bad and you prepare for that," Jefferson said.

He said sometimes nothing can stop someone intent on killing, which is what he believes the suspect in White's death did.

"At the point they tried to talk to the guy and he slammed the door on him, by virtue of them forcing their way in and he started shooting, he knew he was committing murder," Jefferson said.

So why are there more gun-related killings of officers?

Linda Moon Gregory, the national president of Concerns Of Police Survivors, said she's worried budget constraints are to blame.

"At a time when criminals have the latest technology and weapons, we must ensure that our peace officers are adequately equipped and protected," Gregory said.

It's no secret law enforcement officers consider each other family, and even though White worked in Clay County, officers across the area and state are sharing in his family's grief.