Line of duty police deaths: A paradoxical trend in felonious homicides in the United States

Kenna Davis Quinet, David J. Bordua, Wright Lassiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research in the U.S. has focused more on killings by police rather than of police. Additionally, previous research on felonious line–of–duty deaths (FLDD) of police has been limited because it has only covered certain time spans, cities or samples. This paper analyzes national trends in municipal, county and state officer deaths in the United States from 1960–1992. We examine several classes of variables in attempting to explain the trends: the number of officers, violence directed towards the police, general social violence and police practices. The present analyses finds an increase in FLDD from 1960–1971 and a paradoxical rather steady decline from 1971 to the present. Since 1989 (and in 1986), the U.S. male is more likely to be the victim of a homicide than is a line of duty police officer. Also, police are more likely to die as a result of an accident or suicide than a felonious (homicide) death. We conclude that the paradoxical decline may be explained partly by police practices of target hardening through body armor and partly through decreases in violence in police–citizen interchanges. Further research is needed on the degree to which this latter decline is a result of changes in police training and tactics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-296
Number of pages14
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1997


  • Body Armor
  • Police Deaths
  • Target Hardening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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