The number of law enforcement officers killed by suspects declined last year, falling to the second-lowest number of such deaths during the Obama administration, according to FBI data released Tuesday.

In 2015, there were 41 officers killed in what the FBI called “felonious acts,” which overwhelmingly involved officers fatally shot during law enforcement activities. The toll declined from the 51 officers killed by suspects in the line of duty a year earlier, when more officers were killed in ambushes and during traffic stops.

The FBI’s figures were made public at a time when law enforcement officers say they are feeling under siege during an era of protests against how police officers use force against people of color – and during a year in which officers were shaken by deadly ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Preliminary statistics show that so far this year, more officers have been fatally shot than during all of last year. There have been 46 officers shot and killed, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit that tracks line-of-duty deaths. The fund said that more than half of the officers killed by that point were shot in ambushes.

Despite the figures this year, statistics show that being a police officer has gotten safer over the past four decades. During the 1970s, an average of 127 police officers were fatally shot each year, according to the memorial fund. Since then, the death toll has continued to decline, falling by more than half, to about 53 officers fatally shot each year during the past decade.

The officers killed last year were shot in 38 of the 41 incidents; three others were slain with vehicles used as weapons, said the FBI. .

Most of the officers died while investigating reports of suspicious people or during tactical situations, such as responding to a barricaded person or a hostage situation, the FBI said. Others were killed during traffic stops, while making arrests or in ambushes.

Last year, 45 officers also died in accidents, most of them car crashes, the FBI said. This number was the same from a year earlier.

The FBI also said there were more than 50,000 officers assaulted during policing work, with nearly 3 in 10 of these officers injured.

On Sunday, FBI Director James Comey addressed the International Association of Chiefs of Police and strongly defended officers, saying that they serve during “a uniquely difficult time” and that videos of police shootings have helped cement “a narrative that . . . biased police are killing black men at epidemic rates.”

A day later, Terrence Cunningham, head of that police association and chief of the Wellesley, Massachusetts, police, offered a formal apology to minorities “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”


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