More law enforcement officers in the U.S. have died in the line of duty due to being infected with COVID-19 than all other reasons combined in 2020, according to two databases that track officer fatalities.
The Officer Down Memorial Page lists 101 officers who have a cause of death listed as COVID-19. That's out of a total of 188 for all causes.
"Obviously law enforcement officers have been considered essential workers throughout the pandemic and as such have had greater exposure to covid. In some cases, it can be confirmed that the officer had exposure to covid on duty," Jessica Rushing, communications director for ODMP said in a statement. "In cases where an exposure to covid OUTSIDE work cannot be verified, the officer is assumed to have contracted covid on duty."
Rushing says ODMP is in the process of verifying whether approximately 150 other officers have died related to COVID-19 that was presumed to have been contracted in the line of duty.
"As has been noted by the CDC and public health officials, underlying/preexisting causes do not negate deaths due to COVID because those individuals would not have died as a result of those underlying causes had they not contracted COVID," Rushing said.
It's very likely COVID-19 will pass the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as the single "incident" that has caused the highest number of officer deaths, Rushing said. Seventy-two died on 9/11 and another 311 have died as a result of illnesses they suffered due to 9/11.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund lists 120 deaths due to COVID-19 in 2020. Its website says there have been 99 law enforcement fatalities from firearms, traffic-related or other causes.
"If it is determined that the officer died as a result of exposure to the virus while performing official duties, then that officer is eligible for inclusion on the Memorial," the NLEOMF states on its website. "Substantive evidence will be required to show the death was more than likely due to the direct and proximate result of a duty-related incident."