The number of U.S. police officers killed in the line of duty increased sharply in 2016 following multiple attacks on law enforcement officials, including ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
A new report released Thursday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund showed 135 officers died on the job this year. Some died in traffic accidents, but nearly half were shot to death. That's a 56 percent increase in shooting deaths over the previous year.
"We've never seen a year in my memory when we've had an increase of this magnitude in officer shooting deaths," said Craig Floyd, president and chief executive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. "These officers were killed simply because of the uniform they wear and the job they do. This is unacceptable to the humane society that we are."
The attacks have complicated the nationwide conversation about the use of force by police in America, especially against African-American men.
On July 7 in Dallas, a sniper attacked at the end of what had been a peaceful rally against police brutality. He killed five law enforcement officers and wounded nine others — the largest death toll among law enforcement from a single event since the 9/11 attacks, which killed 72 officers.
Less than two weeks after the Dallas attack, a lone gunman in Baton Rouge shot and killed three officers and wounded three others outside a convenience store in the weeks after a black man, Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by police during a struggle.
Floyd said the impact of this year has been profound on law enforcement. Agencies are struggling to recruit officers to their ranks, and those who continue to serve "talk about how their head is now on a swivel.''
"They're always looking over their shoulder, always worrying about the next attack that could come at any time from any direction," Floyd said.