The deaths of police officers in the line of duty has increased sharply this year, according to recent statistics.

Pallbearers carry a casket covered by the United States flag following funeral services for Jersey City Police Department officer Melvin Santiago (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The deaths of two officers in a short time has bumped New Jersey to number 14 on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Preliminary 2014 Fatality Statistics list, which includes data up to July 23.

Nationally, there's been a 31 percent increase in police fatalities in the first half of 2014, following two years of declines in those deaths, according to data listed in the NLEOMF's mid-year report.

Steve Groeninger of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund said the increase is a concern.

"To see those numbers going back up is a bit troublesome," Groeninger said.

According to the mid-year report, 67 officers died in the line of duty during the first half of the year. Of those, 26 were traffic-related, which marks the second year in a row that such incidents were the primary cause of police fatalities. Another 25 officers, however, were killed by gunfire. Data listed in the NLEOMF's Preliminary 2014 Statistics list includes the recent ambush death of Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago. The rookie cop was killed on July 13 by an armed suspect who was allegedly waiting for police outside a Walgreen's drugstore in Jersey City.

"That is one of the worst cases of the 67 fatalities the country has suffered this year," Groeninger said, calling Santiago's violent death "shocking and heinous."
Santiago was one of two officers killed this month. On July 17, Officer Christopher Goodell of the Waldwick Police Department was killed when the unmarked police car he was using to monitor speeders on Route 17 was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer.
In addition to job-related deaths from gunfire and traffic fatalities, job-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, increased 62 percent in the first half of 2014, the NLEOMF mid-year report states.
“We had seen significant declines in officer fatalities the last two years, so the spike in deaths this year is particularly alarming,” NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd said in a press release on the NLEOMF website. “The sharp rise in officers killed by gunfire—many in ambush-style attacks—as well as a significant increase in fatal on-duty heart attacks reminds us that much more work needs to be done to improve officer safety and wellness.”

On a national scale, California has the highest number of officers killed on the job, with eight fatalities for the first six months of 2014. Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia have seen four each.