The number of police officers killed in the line of duty dropped in 2017 to the second-lowest point in 50 years.
As of Dec. 28, 128 officers had been killed on the job, according to USA Today. Forty-four of the members of law enforcement were shot and killed. The total is down 10 percent from 2016 when 143 officers died and 66 were killed by gun violence.
"This is one of those good-news, bad-news situations," said Craig Floyd, president of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, according to USA Today. "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."
The 2017 total is the lowest since 2013, when 116 officers were killed. The low final number comes as a surprise because the number of officers killed by mid-2017 was higher than the previous year.
As of June 30, 65 officers had been killed, 30 percent more than mid-2016, according to Newsweek.
"When our law enforcement officers put their badges on at the start of their shifts, they do so with the intention of protecting the citizens of their communities and this country," Floyd said at the time. "Officers have been targeted for the job that they do, shot and killed or hit with vehicles. I ask all of our citizens to do their part to protect our law enforcement heroes, as they continue to protect us."
Reasons for the low total are unclear but could include new safety equipment and tactics used by law enforcement agencies across the country.
"It's definitely a good sign but if it's a a trend, we'll have to see," said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor who researches police activities, according to USA Today. "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."
Another theory is that officers are less likely to put themselves in dangerous situations than they were in 2016.
Randy Sutton, a spokesman for Blue Lives Matter, a police advocacy group, told USA Today that officers are reluctant to make certain arrests after a wake of high-profile police shootings.
"There's a saying in law enforcement: You cant' get in trouble for the car stop you don't make," Sutton said. "They don't want to be the next Ferguson, the next officer burned on the stake."
Sources: USA Today, Newsweek / Featured Image: Red Carlisle/Flickr / Embedded Images: Metropolitan Transit Authority of the State of New York/Flickr, Mike Hastings/U.S. Air Force