In May 2018, there were an estimated 687,100 police and sheriff’s patrol officers (“police officers”) in the United States.1, 2 Local governments employed approximately 84 percent of police officers, with the remainder employed by state governments, the federal government, and educational services.3 Hazardous and volatile conditions associated with police work leave officers at risk of workplace injuries and dying in the line of duty.
There were 108 fatal work injuries to police officers in 2018, a nearly 14 percent increase from the 95 reported in 2017. Fatal work injuries to police officers occurred at a rate of 13.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2018; the rate for all occupations was 3.5. Similarly, police officers incurred nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work at a rate of 371.4 per 10,000 FTE workers in 2018; the rate for all occupations was 98.4.
By race or ethnic origin, 76 officers suffering fatal injuries were white (non-Hispanic), 14 were black or African-American (non-Hispanic), 11 were Hispanic or Latino, 4 were American Indian or Alaska Native (non-Hispanic), and 1 was Asian (non-Hispanic). Of the 108 fatal work injuries among police officers in 2018, seven involved female officers. By age, a majority (66) of fatal injuries occurred to officers between the ages of 25 and 44, with 30 officers aged 45 and over and 12 officers aged 20 to 24. Similarly, among cases where age was reported, approximately 71 percent of nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving cases with days away from work occurred among officers between the ages of 25 and 44, 24 percent among officers 45 and older, and 5 percent to officers aged 20 to 24. Age was not reported among 3 percent of cases.
Police officers can be hurt in a variety of ways. In 2018, the most common event or exposure leading to fatal workplace injuries among police officers was violence or other injuries by persons or animals, attributable in 56 cases. Homicides made up the majority (49) of these cases, whereas 6 officers died as a result of workplace suicide. For nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving days away from work, violent injuries occurred at a rate of 121.7 per 10,000 FTE workers among police officers in 2018; the rate for all occupations was 7.3.
Transportation incidents were the second most common event or exposure leading to fatal workplace injuries among police officers in 2018, attributable in 45 cases. Of these, roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles accounted for 33 cases, 8 cases were pedestrian vehicular incidents, and the remaining 4 were due to other transportation incidents (2 each from rail and from nonroadway incidents). For nonfatal injuries and illnesses in cases involving days away from work, transportation events occurred at a rate of 64.8 per 10,000 FTE workers among police officers in 2018; the rate for all occupations was 5.8.
Other events of interest include falls, slips, and trips, for which nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving days away from work occurred at a rate of 59.3 per 10,000 FTE workers among police in 2018, and overexertion and bodily reaction occurred at rate of 81.4. The rates of these events for all occupations were 26.6 and 30.3, respectively. No publishable fatal workplace injuries were attributable to these events in 2018.
The most common nature of fatal occupational injuries to police officers in 2018 was open wounds, of which 53 of 54 fatalities were gunshot wounds. Multiple traumatic injuries and disorders accounted for 37 additional fatalities. Nonfatal cases involving days away from work that resulted from multiple traumatic injuries occurred at a rate of 23.5 per 10,000 FTE workers among police; the rate among all occupations was 2.8.
A commonly reported nature of nonfatal injury and illness cases involving days away from work among police in 2018 was sprains, strains and tears, with a rate of 133.5 per 10,000 FTE workers. For all occupations, the rate was 34.0. Soreness and pain occurred at rate of 79.6 among police; the rate for all occupations was 18.7. The median number of days away from work among police in 2018 was 10, whereas for all occupations the median was 9.
You can obtain data from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program by using the following tools: Create Customized Tables (Multiple Screens), Create Customized Tables (Single Screen), and the Online Profiles System. Additional tables and charts are on the IIF homepage and the IIF State page.
For technical information and definitions, please see the BLS Handbook of Methods for the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) at https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/soii/home.htm and for the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) at https://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/cfoi/home.htm.
1. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are code 33-3051 in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. More on this occupation can be found at https://www.bls.gov/soc/2018/major_groups.htm#33-0000. Note that this definition excludes First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives, Transit and Railroad Police, or Detectives and Criminal Investigators.
3. Employer estimate from Occupational Outlook Handbook, located at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm. Note this includes both information on a broader category than the data in this paper as well as some detailed data on just police officers.
Last Modified Date: November 9, 2021