Coronavirus leading cause of law enforcement deaths in early 2021

·4 min read

Sep. 20—Coronavirus was the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in the United States during the first half of 2021, a report released by a nonprofit organization shows.

The report, issued by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, revealed that 71 officers died from coronavirus from the beginning of the year until June 30.

That total, which is more than the next two leading causes (traffic-related, 38, and firearms-related, 28) combined, is a part of a 10 percent increase in total line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers during the first part of 2021 compared to the same period of 2020.

Coronavirus deaths among officers, however, decreased by seven percent from the first half of 2020, when 76 officers died from the virus.

The 155 deaths of law enforcement officers while in the line-of-duty puts 2021 on pace to surpass the record 295 deaths in 2020, the report states.

"The first six months of this year have demonstrated that America's law enforcement officers are still battling the deadly effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some 71 officers dying as a result of contracting the disease while executing official duties," the report reads.

Two officers have been confirmed to have died from the virus while on duty in Ohio, according to Police1's Law Enforcement Death tracker.

In February, Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Donald Raymond Gilreath III, a corrections officer, died from coronavirus complications. He was just 36.

Just recently in Butler County, Deputy Craig Mills also died from coronavirus. He was 57.

Lucas County has had positive vaccination rates among its county employees, according to an internal survey it conducted, though participation of the voluntary survey taken in August was only about 40 percent of the county's some 2,900 employees.

Of the participants who responded to the survey, 85 percent were reported to have been vaccinated.

In the sheriff's office, of which only 15 percent of employees participated in the survey, 80 percent reported they had been fully vaccinated.

The county is seeking to improve its participation in upcoming surveys and is planning to launch some incentives to encourage more feedback on vaccine levels later this week, Deputy County Administrator Matt Heyrman said.

Sheriff Mike Navarre said his office encourages all employees to get the vaccine, though it is not mandatory.

"We always advise them to take necessary precautions because they have to make arrests, they come in contact with people they have no idea where these people have been, or whether they've been vaccinated," the sheriff said. "We provide them with necessary equipment, gloves, masks, sanitizers."

Lucas County's jail, which houses anywhere from 350 to 400 inmates on any given day, also puts officers and inmates alike at risk, Sheriff Navarre said.

Though the county has made vaccines available for inmates, less than 10 percent have received the vaccine.

"Very few take advantage of that, but we have made it available on several occasions," Sheriff Navarre said. "So we're doing, I think everything we can possibly do.

"But if you think about it, here's a guy that's in jail being held against his will, awaiting trial, and now they want to stick a needle in my arm?" the sheriff continued. "I can understand why there can be a little bit of anxiety and suspicion."

For officers, an increased coronavirus risk fits in line with other risks they face on a daily basis.

"It's heartbreaking when you lose an officer for any reason," Sheriff Navarre said. "Gunshot, heart attack. COVID. It's a very dangerous job. We ask our law enforcement officers to do things we don't ask the general public to do."

While it is unclear how many individuals are vaccinated in many police departments across the country, departments in New York and Los Angeles are reported to have lower vaccination rates than the general public.

According to a report from the Associated Press, just 51 percent of the Los Angeles Police Department has been vaccinated, while an estimated 47 percent of New York City's department have taken the vaccine.

Nationally, 76.5 percent of the adult population has received at least one vaccine shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sgt. Paul Davis, a Toledo Police Department spokesman, did not give any information about vaccination rates, writing in a statement that TPD officers are not required "to disclose their personal medical choices."

Toledo Police Chief George Kral was not available for this story.

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