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Police deaths rise sharply again

Tim O'Briant / The Standard via AP

Aiken, S.C., police investigated Dec. 20 after two officers were shot during a traffic stop. Master Officer Scotty Richardson, 33, died later.

For the second straight year, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty rose sharply in 2011, according to statistics released Wednesday.

Preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund showed that 173 federal, state and local officers have been killed on the job so far this year, 13 percent more than the 153 who died in 2010 — and 42 percent more than the 122 officers who were killed in 2009.

The memorial fund, a nonprofit group that runs the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, attributed the steep rise to "drastic budget cuts" that "have put our officers at grave risk."

Police "are facing a more cold-blooded criminal element and fighting a war on terror," but "we are cutting vital resources necessary to ensure their safety," said Craig Floyd, the fund's chairman.

The leading cause of death was gunfire, which has killed 68 officers this year, just one short of the decade-long high of 69 in 2007.

One of them was Scotty Richardson, 33, a master officer with the Aiken, S.C., police, who was buried Tuesday in a flag-draped coffin. Richardson died after he was shot in the head Dec. 20 during a nighttime traffic stop. His partner was also shot and survived, NBC station WAGT of Augusta, Ga., reported.

WAGT-TV: Life of Officer Scotty Richardson celebrated

Aiken Department of Public Safety

Aiken, S.C., Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson

Police charged Stephon Carter, 19, with murder and attempted murder.

Aiken Public Safety Director Pete Frommer said Richardson held the title "master officer" because of his diligence and sheer hard work.

"He had an additional 1,460 hours of advanced training," Frommer said. "Everybody can't do that."

Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said the ceremony was first time in a long while that a tragedy of such magnitude had hit his community.

"We're going to move forward, and it's sad that this happened, and we never want it to happen again," Cavanaugh said.

This is the first time in 13 years that shootings outpaced traffic incidents as the leading cause of officers' deaths, the police fund reported, which Linda Moon Gregory, president of Concerns of Police Survivors, a nonprofit interest group, blamed on inadequate training and equipment.

"At a time when criminals have the latest technology and weapons, we must ensure that our peace officers are adequately equipped and protected," Gregory said in a statement.

The most officers were killed in large states, such as Texas and California, and states in the South, seven of which were in the top 13:

  • Florida 14
  • Texas 13
  • New York 11
  • California 10
  • Georgia 10
  • Tennessee 7
  • North Carolina 7
  • Missouri 6
  • Ohio 6
  • Arizona 5
  • Louisiana 5
  • New Jersey 5
  • Michigan 5
  • Virginia 5

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NBC station WAGT of Augusta, Ga., contributed to this report.

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