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FBI: Number of cops killed on duty has spiked

The release of the FBI’s 2014 preliminary report on law enforcement officers killed on the job.
Police officers salute as the procession for New York City Police officer Brian Moore passes after his funeral mass, May 8, 2015, at the St. James Roman Catholic church in Seaford, N.Y. (Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP)
Police officers salute as the procession for New York City Police officer Brian Moore passes after his funeral mass, May 8, 2015, at the St. James Roman Catholic church in Seaford, N.Y. 

The number of police officers feloniously killed in the line of duty spiked to 51 in 2014, up almost 89% from the 27 cops who were killed in 2013, a record low year, according to the FBI.

The release of the FBI’s 2014 preliminary report on law enforcement officers killed on the job on Monday comes on the heels of a string of cops killed in recent weeks.

On Saturday, two officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi— Liquori Tate, 24, and Benjamin Deen, 34— were killed in a fusillade of gunfire during a routine traffic stop. And on Friday, tens of thousands of people came out to mourn New York police officer Brian Moore, shot and killed a week earlier when a man with a gun opened fire on the police car Moore was driving in with his partner. The officers never had a chance to fire back.

In the Hattiesburg case, four suspects, including a pair of brothers, have been charged with murder and related charges. In New York, a suspect has been charged with murder in Moore’s killing.

The recent spate of police killed on duty underscores the inherent violence that comes with the job and serves as a counter to ongoing protests calling for an end to police violence against unarmed citizens, young black men in particular.

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On Monday afternoon a memorial service was scheduled for the fallen officers in Mississippi. Ahead of the service, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the “shocking assault” on officers Tate and Deen, whom she describe as committed and courageous, “struck at the heart of that great city.”

“They exemplified the very best that our country has to offer,” Lynch said. “The murder of these young men is a devastating reminder that the work our brave police officers perform every day is extremely dangerous, profoundly heroic, and deeply deserving of our unequivocal support. All Americans owe these courageous citizens a debt of gratitude.”

Lynch noted that the tragedy of the officers’ loss is exacerbated by the start of Police Week, which kicked off the day they were killed. The week serves as a time to honor the 20,000 law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

“They took away my baby,” Youlander Ross, officer Tate’s mother, told NBC News. “The hurt is unbearable”

Meanwhile, Mary Smith, mother of Marvin Banks, 29, and Curtis Banks, 26, brothers charged in Tate and Deen’s killing, said her younger son is innocent and that her older son shot the officers because he was likely on drugs.

“Curtis called me and said ma, they're saying that big brother shot the police,” she told NBC News. When asked why she thinks her son might’ve shot the officers, she said, “I don't know. He was out of his mind. He wasn't the same Marvin.”

“He was on them drugs,” she said, “on that spice. He wasn't the same Marvin.”

The FBI report broke down the number of police feloniously killed, or as a result of a criminal act, by region and circumstance. The majority of the officers killed in 2015 were killed in the South. The South accounted for 17, the West, 14, the Midwest, eight, the Northeast another eight, and four in Puerto Rico.

Eleven officers were killed while answering disturbance calls, 10 officers were in traffic pursuits or stops, eight were killed in ambushes and six officers were investigating suspicious persons, according to the FBI.

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The remaining officers were fatally injured while conducting investigations, engaged in tactical situations, handling individuals with mental illness, attempting arrests and or during drug-related matters.

Firearms were used in 46 of the 51 criminal deaths. In four cases suspects killed officers with vehicles used as weapons and in one case a suspect apparently beat an officer to death.

In 2015, 44 police officers have been killed across the United States, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks officers killed in the line of duty. Of that total, 12 died as a result of car accidents, 11 died of heart attacks, 10 were shot and others died as a result of being struck by vehicles, vehicle pursuits, assaults or accidents.

While the FBI keeps a meticulous record of the number of police killed in duty, the number of people killed by the police is largely unknown.

Police departments are not required to report to the federal government how many people they kill each year. Instead, law enforcement agencies have the option to self-report. As recently as 2012 only about 4% of America’s 17,000 law enforcement agencies have self-reported their homicide totals to the FBI.  

On Monday, the same day the FBI released its preliminary report on cop deaths, Mapping Police Violence, a group that tallies black people who have been killed by police nationwide, released its monthly “Police Violence Report.”

According to the group, 31 black people were killed by police in April, one every 23 hours. Of that total 42% were unarmed.