COVID-19 was the biggest line-of-duty killer of law enforcement officers in 2020 across New Jersey and the nation, according to figures released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

NLEOMF is still reviewing 2020 deaths related to the pandemic, to determine whether or not the deceased cops actually contracted coronavirus on the job. But initial figures suggest that 145 of the 264 line-of-duty deaths nationwide last year were related to COVID-19.

"Currently we have 10 line-of-duty deaths confirmed in New Jersey. Eight of those deaths are COVID," said NLEOMF CEO Marcia Ferranto.

It will be a few months before the nonprofit releases the names and photos of those who passed last year. In May, their names will be engraved on the Fund's memorial wall in Washington, D.C.

Several law enforcement officers in New Jersey died due to COVID-19 in 2020, but not all cases involved on-the-job transmission of the virus.

Ferranto said New Jersey's list also includes an officer who passed away due to illness related to 9/11 response, as well as Bridgeton police officer Sean Peek, who passed away hours after jumping into a river to rescue an accused burglar.

NLEOMF's 2020 numbers represent a 96% jump from the year prior. Last year saw the greatest number of line-of-duty office deaths since 1974.

Ferranto implores residents who make emergency calls to let officers know what type of situation they're headed into, such as active COVID-19 in a home or building, so they can be better prepared to protect themselves.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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