Newly released data indicates that fewer than 130 police officers died in the line of duty in 2017, marking the second-lowest year of law enforcement fatalities recorded in over 50 years.
On Dec. 28, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) had recorded 128 officers killed in action in the past year; 44 of the fallen officers had been fatally shot while the 47 were killed in vehicle crashes, USA Today reports.
The numbers reflect a 10 percent drop compared to 2016, when 143 officers died while in action. Sixty-six of those killed last year were shot. In the last 58 years, the lowest amount of officer fatalities occurred in 2013, when 116 died while on duty.
Eight police officers were ambushed and killed in 2017, a significant downturn from the 21 officers fatally attacked in 2016.
"This is one of those good-news, bad-news situations," said NLEOMF president Craig Floyd. "On one hand, you had 128 officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, showing the cost of public safety, but for the first time since 2013, the number of deaths has actually declined."
Professor Geoffrey P. Alpert of the University of South Carolina said that the drop in police fatalities could be attributed to advancements in body armor and better training but was reluctant to say whether the number would continue to decline.
"It's definitely a good sign but if it's a trend, we'll have to see," Alpert said. "We're starting to see the impact of all this new training and equipment, and a shift because of the overall concern for officer safety."
Criminal justice professor Justin Nix of the University of South Carolina echoed Alpert's sentiment.
"This decrease is definitely a good thing, but there's no way of knowing whether it might go up again next year," Nix said.
Meanwhile, the number of people killed by police had inversely risen in the past year. In 2017, 971 people were fatally shot by law enforcement officers, a slight increase compared to the 963 killed in 2016, according to The Washington Post.
It is reported that 724 of those killed by police were armed with a gun or a knife -- 66 were confirmed to be unarmed. Roughly a quarter of the shooting incidents involved a person with mental illness; 97 of the incidents were recorded by a body camera.
On Dec. 19, data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the most dangerous civilian profession in the U.S. was logging, with 136 fatal work injuries per every 100,000 workers in 2016. Fishing, aircraft piloting and roofing were also listed as some of the most dangerous jobs.