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Thirty-seven U.S. police officers were murdered in the first five months of 2021

As violent crime rises, so does the on-the-job risk for police officers. Forty-six were murdered in all of 2020.
The casket of U.S. Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans arrives to the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With violent crime on the upswing across the nation, the number of police officers who have died violently in the line of duty is also spiking.

FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted the issue in an appearance Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee. Wray said a total of 37 officers had been murdered in the first five months of 2021, compared with 46 during all of 2020.

“And that's not counting all those officers who've died in the line of duty facing the countless other inherent dangers of the job, like from a car accident in pursuit after a subject or drowning during an attempted rescue. Or even the scores of officers who've died from Covid-19. Because, of course, law enforcement kept coming to work every day despite the pandemic.”

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 148 police officers have died of all causes so far in 2021, up from 134 this time last year. Traffic deaths, in particular, have risen 42 percent, according to those statistics.

Police deaths mirror the increase in violent crime across the country. There were 56 shootings of four or more people in May, the highest number of mass shootings of any month since the Gun Violence Archive, a research nonprofit, started tracking the data in 2013. Homicides are up by 20 percent or more in cities large and small.

Included among the deaths has been a litany of police killings.

Last month in California, two police officers were shot and killed in two separate incidents.

In April, a Capitol police officer was killed when a man drove into him as he rammed a barrier.

In February, two FBI agents were shot and killed in Miami while attempting to serve an arrest warrant in a child pornography case.

The FBI director revealed to Congress Tuesday he has made a condolence call each time it happens.

“Since August of 2017 when I started in this job, I’ve made more than 200 of those calls,” he said. “And with each one I think about the friends and family members rocked by the loss of a loved one, the careers cut short and the communities hurting.”

He added, “It takes a pretty special person to get up in the morning and put his or her life on the line for a total stranger.”