According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for officers nationwide this year. So far, 219 law enforcement deaths have been confirmed by the organization.
What You Need To Know
- According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death among law enforcement so far this year
- Executive director of National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial says COVID caused 110 deaths nationwide, followed by traffic-related incidents (43)
- Hernando County Sheriff's Office is latest Tampa Bay agency to announce the death of a member
- Related Coverage: St. Pete police officer laid to rest after losing his COVID fight
"Out of that 219, 110 of those were COVID cases," said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Executive Director Patrick Montuore. "In fact, last year, including this year, we had to create a COVID task force to make sure that we looked at all the information necessary to identify the factors that provides the officers — female or male, federal, state, county, local officers — that suffered from the effects of COVID based on their actions and duties."
Montuore said the process of confirming a line of duty death of any cause is a long one that involves a high level of investigation to preserve the integrity of the memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
According to Montuore, the next leading causes of death among law enforcement officers so far this year include traffic-related incidents (43), gunfire (39), and other causes, like heart attack or drowning (27). He stressed that numbers are fluid and that the organization is continuously working to confirm line of duty deaths.
"Truthfully, it's a thing you fear," said Montuore of the virus. "It's not just as an officer. The officers have to run in regardless. I mean, it's the silent killer."
The virus has taken a toll on law enforcement agencies across Tampa Bay, with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office being the latest to announce a deputy's death. In a Sunday Facebook post, the sheriff's office let the community know about the line of duty death of Det. Tommy Breedlove, 54, on Sept. 4 of COVID-19.
Montuore said the memorial fund is seeing an increase in other fatality causes, as well.
"I don't think numbers describe the human being. I don't think numbers describe the heroism or the integrity of our officers, but I want to say, unfortunately, here's the number that we engraved on the wall last year — 394 souls," said Montuore.
Of those, Montuore said 295 passed away last year and 99 were historical deaths just being recorded. He said 182 of those deaths were due to COVID.
"Three-hundred ninety-four total for that year, last year, has been the most in 50 years," Montuore said. "It's climbing at a time when it should be decreasing with the knowledge, the expertise, the amount of training and education."
Twenty years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that claimed thousands of lives, Montuore said deaths from 9/11-related illnesses are still being recorded among law enforcement. Spectrum News asked Montuore if he foresees COVID being a similar long term problem.
"I don't know what 20 years is going to bring on COVID," Montuore said. "Is there going to be something else? Who knows? I pray to God no. But I will tell you that officers are not going to change putting their hand up, saying, 'I do, and I wish to continue on doing that for all those out there, no matter what the feeling of society may be.'"