COVID 19-related deaths more than doubled the number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2020, according to the most current statistics. Absent the pandemic, law enforcement deaths would have decreased in the state and country on a year-over-year basis.
Florida officials attributed 13 out of 19 law enforcement deaths to COVID, or nearly 70 percent of the 2020 total. Last year, eight Florida law enforcement officers died in the line of duty.
Nationally, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, the number of law enforcement line of duty deaths reached 296 with 179 of those deaths attributed to COVID, or just over 60 percent of the 2020 total.
One of 13 Florida officers who died in the line of duty due to the pandemic was Deputy Sheriff Angela Chavers. She died on September 12, 2020, after contracting COVID-19 during an outbreak among staff and inmates Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Main Detention Center.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “As the wife of a law enforcement officer, the doubling of line of duty deaths is shocking and heartbreaking. As Florida’s Attorney General, I am calling on all Floridians to support our heroes on the frontlines of fighting a global pandemic, civil unrest, and crime in our communities. While much of the world stayed home to stop the spread of COVID-19, law enforcement officers went to work without hesitation—risking their health and safety to protect the communities they love.
“As we enter this new year, I am hopeful we will come together as a community, as a state and as a nation to uplift these heroes and give them our unwavering support.”
COVID-19 is taking a tremendous toll on law enforcement nationally—as of today, 179 officers lost their lives to the virus with many others becoming seriously ill.
Of course, the coronavirus is not the only threat law enforcement faced this year. Felonious attacks and killings of officers are also on the rise. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, 44 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line-of-duty in 2020—an increase of approximately 10 percent from the previous year.
One of the six Florida law enforcement officers not killed by COVID-19 was Trooper Joseph Bullock. On February 5, 2020, Bullock was on the side of the road, assisting a motorist whose car was disabled in Martin County. He was on the scene with the motorist for over an hour, waiting for a tow truck and filling out paperwork. After the tow truck arrived, the motorist reportedly became upset with the cost of having his vehicle towed. And then, according to reports, the motorist calmly walked back to Trooper Bullock’s vehicle and, without warning, drew a handgun and fatally shot him in the head.
In July, Moody led a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in support of the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act. The SAFR Act permits the families of first responders, who die or are permanently and totally disabled as a result of COVID-19, to receive the same federal benefits extended to those public servants otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty. In August, President Donald J. Trump signed the act into law.
Soon after becoming Attorney General, Moody launched a statewide Back the Blue (BTB) campaign. The campaign highlights law enforcement officers, citizens and organizations taking extraordinary steps to forge positive impacts on law enforcement and local communities. Attorney General Moody has issued more than 30 BTB Awards since taking office.