Eleven years of occupational mortality in law enforcement: The census of fatal occupational injuries, 1992-2002

Am J Ind Med. 2010 Sep;53(9):940-9. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20863.


Background: Occupational injury deaths remain high for Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs). This study describes and compares intentional and transportation-related fatality rates in US LEOs between 1992 and 2002.

Methods: Workplace injury deaths among LEOs from 1992 to 2002 were categorized into "Intentional," "Transportation-related," and "Other," using the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Occupations included in this analysis were sheriffs and bailiffs, police and detectives, non-public service guards, and correctional officers. Fatality rates were compared among law enforcement occupations, cause of death, and demographics with rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals.

Results: During the 11-year period, 2,280 workers died from an occupational injury, for a fatality rate of 11.8 per 100,000 across all LEO occupations. Forty-seven percent were homicides (n = 1,072, rate 5.6 per 100,000), 36% transportation-related (n = 815, rate 4.2 per 100,000), 11% were due to other causes (n = 249, rate 1.3 per 100,000), and 5% were workplace suicides (n = 122, rate 0.6 per 100,000). The proportion of fatalities by cause of death differed significantly between occupations (P < 0.0001). Sheriffs and bailiffs experience a high risk for occupational injury death compared to other law enforcement occupations. Of the transportation-related fatalities, LEOs were operating a motor-vehicle in 58% of the incidents and 22% of the fatalities were struck by incidents.

Conclusions: Transportation-related deaths were nearly as common as homicides as a cause of occupational injury death among US LEOs. Struck by vehicle incidents remain an important and overlooked cause of death. This research points to opportunities for the prevention of transportation-related deaths in law enforcement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / mortality*
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Police / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult