ATLANTA — This year has been particularly deadly for law enforcement.
Deaths in the line of duty jumped 37 percent to about 160 from 117 the year before, according to numbers as of Tuesday compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit that tracks police deaths.
There was a spike in shooting deaths, with 59 federal, state and local officers killed by gunfire in 2010, a 20 percent jump from last year, when 49 were killed. The total does not include the death of a Georgia State Patrol trooper shot Monday in Atlanta in a traffic stop.
Seventy-three officers died in traffic incidents, a rise from the 51 killed in 2009, according to the data.
Craig Floyd, director of the Washington-based fund, said the rise in fatalities could be an aftershock of the nation's economic troubles as officers in some communities cope with slashed budgets.
Last year's toll of 117 officers killed was a 50-year low that encouraged police groups. But this year's total is more the norm than an anomaly: The number of police deaths has topped 160 five times since 2000, including 240 in 2001. The annual toll routinely topped 200 in the 1970s and before that in the 1920s.
The deaths were spread across more than 30 states and Puerto Rico — with the most killings reported in Texas, California, Illinois, Florida and Georgia.
The research didn't reveal what led to many of the traffic deaths, partly because local departments often don't keep complete records of those fatalities, said Floyd. But he suggests more research on possible driver fatigue and distracted driving.
"We're asking citizens not to talk and text on their cell phones, but we're providing officers with laptop computers and cell phones and radios," he said. "That means taking their attention from the road."