Objectives: To describe the incidences and causes of occupational police deaths in New York City in the United States and Greater London in the United Kingdom during the twentieth century. To assess the relation between overall societal violence and violence directed toward police officers in these metropolitan areas.
Design and setting: Ecological study of New York and London from 1900 through 1999.
Main outcome measures: Intentional and unintentional occupational police mortality rates for New York and London were estimated for each decade. The general population homicide rates of both New York and London were assessed for their correlation with their respective intentional occupational police mortality rates.
Results: During the 20th century, 585 police officers in New York and 160 police officers in London died while participating in law enforcement activities. New York had markedly greater intentional police mortality rates compared to London throughout most of the 20th century, but these differences decreased significantly by the end of the century. Intentional gunshot wounds comprised 290 police deaths in New York, but only 14 police deaths in London. In New York, gun shot wounds (both intentional and unintentional) accounted for more occupational police deaths (51.6%) than did all other injury mechanisms combined. In London, motor vehicle collision was the most common cause (47.5%) of occupational police death. There were no apparent correlations between the general population homicide rates and intentional police mortality rates in either New York (r2 = 0.05, 95% CI −0.77 to 0.81) or London (r2 = 0.34, 95% CI −0.61 to 0.89).
Conclusions: During the 20th century, both intentional and unintentional occupational police mortality rates were significantly greater in New York compared to London. These differences are likely from several socioeconomic, cultural, and occupational factors. The declines in police deaths in New York during the latter part of the 20th century indicate that at least some measures taken by the New York Police Department have been successful at significantly reducing the incidence of both intentional and unintentional police deaths.
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Competing interests: none.
Ethics approval: since this study involved only historical information available to the general public, ethics approval was not required.
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