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Nonfatal Injuries to Law Enforcement Officers: A Rise in Assaults

Published:February 01, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2017.12.005

      Introduction

      Limited studies exist that describe nonfatal work-related injuries to law enforcement officers. The aim of this study is to provide national estimates and trends of nonfatal injuries to law enforcement officers from 2003 through 2014.

      Methods

      Nonfatal injuries were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System−Occupational Supplement. Data were obtained for injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003 to 2014. Nonfatal injury rates were calculated using denominators from the Current Population Survey. Negative binomial regression was used to analyze temporal trends. Data were analyzed in 2016–2017.

      Results

      Between 2003 and 2014, an estimated 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in U.S. emergency departments for nonfatal injuries. The overall rate of 635 per 10,000 full-time equivalents was three times higher than all other U.S. workers rate (213 per 10,000 full-time equivalents). The three leading injury events were assaults and violent acts (35%), bodily reactions and exertion (15%), and transportation incidents (14%). Injury rates were highest for the youngest officers, aged 21–24 years. Male and female law enforcement officers had similar nonfatal injury rates. Rates for most injuries remained stable; however, rates for assault-related injuries grew among law enforcement officers between 2003 and 2011.

      Conclusions

      National Electronic Injury Surveillance System−Occupational Supplement data demonstrate a significant upward trend in assault injuries among U.S. law enforcement officers and this warrants further investigation. Police−citizen interactions are dynamic social encounters and evidence-based policing is vital to the health and safety of both police and civilians. The law enforcement community should energize efforts toward the study of how policing tactics impact both officer and citizen injuries.
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