COVID-19 accounted for more than 66 percent of all law enforcement deaths in the line of duty in 2020 and 2021, according to newly compiled statistics.
The report from the Officer Down Memorial Page found that more law enforcement officers died from COVID-19 than from every other cause combined since the pandemic began in early 2020.
In 2020, 245 officers died from COVID-19, more than from gunfire, automobile crashes and other illnesses.
"It's taken a definite toll," Vernon Stanforth, sheriff in Fayette County, Ohio, and president of the National Sheriffs' Association, told ABC News. "Anytime there's a line of duty death there, it impacts the entire agency and the entire law enforcement community."
So far in 2021, 228 law enforcement deaths have been recorded as a result of COVID-19 related illness, out of 356 deaths total.
Patrick Montuore, the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, told Bay News 9 that the group had to create a special task force to determine whether officers "suffered from the effects of COVID based on their actions and duties."
Montuore said last year's death toll was the highest in 50 years, adding that the "silent killer" of COVID-19 was still on the offensive. "It's climbing at a time when it should be decreasing with the knowledge, the expertise, the amount of training and education," he said, according to Bay News 9.
However, The New York Times reported that despite the death toll from COVID-19, police unions are fighting vaccine mandates.
The head of Chicago's police union, John Catanzarra, on Tuesday encouraged officers to defy the city’s vaccine reporting mandate and risk being sent home.
Catanzara said the Fraternal Order of Police already has a class-action grievance drafted to cover “everything under the sun,” such as pay and benefits, that police officers risk losing if they refuse to get vaccinated.