Law enforcement officers (LEOS) are three times more likely to sustain a nonfatal injury than all other U.S. workers, according to a first-of-its-kind study that examines nonfatal injuries among the group on a national scale. Assaults and violent acts are the top cause of such injuries (36%), followed by bodily reactions & exertion from running or other repetitive motions (15%), and transportation incidents (14%). 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers who crunched the numbers found that approximately 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency departments across the nation for nonfatal injuries between 2003 and 2014.

Key findings of the study, which was intended to provide national estimates and trends of nonfatal injuries to law enforcement officers:

  • The LEO nonfatal injury trend increased across the 12-year period studied; this is in contrast with the trend for all other U.S. workers which significantly decreased.
  • Assault-related injury rates significantly increased almost 10% annually from 2003 to 2011.

LEOs have historically high rates of fatal and nonfatal injuries. 

“Studies based on evidence are an important feature of public health and this principle extends to studying the law enforcement community and their work,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The safety and health of both police and citizens depend on understanding how policing tactics impact officer and citizen injuries.”

The study used nonfatal injury data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System - Occupational Supplement (NEISS-Work). Data were obtained for injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003-2014.

To access the paper, please visit Nonfatal injuries to law enforcement officers treated in U.S. emergency departments: A rise in assaults. To learn more about law enforcement safety and health, please visit the NIOSH website.