A new report finds the number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2017 dropped to its lowest level in four years.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund preliminary fatalities report, 128 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty over the past year, the lowest total since 2013 when 117 officers passed away.

Memorial Fund CEO Craig Floyd said while it’s good news the figure has gone down in recent years, losing 128 officers is still tragic.

Of those, 47 died in traffic incidents, 44 were shot, and 37 died of other causes.

He said on the positive side of things, “that is a 10 percent decrease from last year’s total, and it’s the second fewest number of officers we’ve lost in a single year since 1959.”

He said the data shows New Jersey fared relatively well this year, but any officer’s death is one too many.

New Jersey lost Matthew Tarentino, a Somerville resident who worked for the Summit police department. Tarentino was killed May after being struck head-on by a driver that crossed the center median, and that led to a secondary collision with another car.

He had been en route to make a safety presentation at a local church as a function of the Community Policing Unit at the time of the accident.

Floyd said only 1 out of 5 Americans has any contact at all with a law enforcement officer during the year, and most of those contacts are traffic stops, so many folks are either indifferent about the police or a have a negative view of them, especially after getting a speeding ticket.

“But the fact of the matter is more people are killed on our roadways than die by murder or drugs in this country, so let’s give them a little credit for keeping our roadways safe.”

He added, “We need to recognize that our officers, each and every day, are literally putting their lives at risk for our safety and our protection. We owe all of these men and women a huge debt of gratitude.”

This year, firearms deaths of police officers were down 33 percent from a year ago. Especially significant was the drop in ambush-style shootings of police officers.

“There were 21 ambush style shooting deaths of officers in 2016. They were literally assassinated. This year that number dropped to eight.”

He said recent trends involving public perception of police officers is positive.

“We have seen a reduction in the level of hatred, protests against law enforcement in this country,” said Floyd.

“Clearly the vast majority of Americans respect the men and women in law enforcement who serve their communities, but in the past this has been a silent majority and now I think people are sick and tired of officers being shot and killed by people with a hatred toward law enforcement or who disrespect the badge and what it stands for.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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