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By Seth Stern
The number of U.S. law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty increased 13 percent to 173 in 2011, the second consecutive annual increase, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The Washington-based group, which honors law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, released a preliminary report today on 2011 fatalities of local, state and federal officers.
For the first time in 14 years, more officers were killed by firearms than by traffic-related incidents, said Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the fund.
Gunfire accounted for 68 of the deaths; 64 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents, including in automobile or motorcycle crashes or from being struck while standing outside their vehicles, according to the report.
Job-related illnesses and other causes, including falls, drownings, stabbings and electrocution, killed 27 officers.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he is concerned about rising police fatalities and earlier this year directed U.S. attorneys to meet with law enforcement officials to devise ways to improve officer safety.
“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend,” Holder said in a statement today. “Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day -- and the fact that too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them.”