In 2013, 71% of line-of-duty deaths occurred as a result of firearm and traffic-related incidents. While these incidents understandably get the most attention, law enforcement officer fatalities due to heart attacks are on the rise. In 2013, 13% of law enforcement officer fatalities were due to heart attacks. In comparison, 5% of law enforcement officers died of heart attacks in 2012 and 6% in 2011.
A closer look at heart attack fatality data reveals:
- In 2013, the average age of an officer who died of a heart attack was 49.
- In 2012 and 2011 it was 50 and 44 respectively.
- 29% of officers who died of a heart attack were under 45.
- In 2012 and 2011, 33% of officers were under 45.
Comparing this data to the national average reveals:
- The average age of a male’s first heart attack in the United States is 64.7 years, according to the American Heart Association.
- The national average for men under the age of 45 to experience their first heart attack is 4% to 10%.
While it is impossible to foresee every medical issue, some agencies are making efforts to prevent heart attacks before they happen. In the January 2013 Officer Safety Corner Column, Chief Mike Masterson of the Boise (ID) Police Department described how his department is helping officers by taking part in a five-year Coronary Artery Disease Risk Assessment Screening Research Study. Since the study began, three officers discovered they had heart problems and sought the treatment they needed to prevent a future heart attack.
It is the IACP’s position that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable, and the IACP Center for Officer Safety and Wellness strives to improve awareness on all aspects of officer health and wellness. If you have any best practices, resources, or recommendations please feel free to contact the Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.