Assaults on Law Enforcement Officers in 2020, by State

In this Guide...

Our analysis of FBI data reveals the number of police officers assaulted while on duty in each state. Nearly 12% of law enforcement officers across the country were assaulted in 2020, a contentious year in the U.S. and the most recent year of this FBI state-level data. Find out how many officers in your state were victims of assault.

Two police officers on duty
1
Key Findings

 

  • 11.9% of police officers were physically assaulted on the job in 2020 (the most recent state-level data available).

  • Nearly two out of every three officers in Alaska were assaulted while on duty in 2020.

  • One out of every three officers in Montana and South Dakota were victims of assault.

  • Less than 1% of officers in Michigan were assaulted in 2020.

  • 26% of assaults on police officers involve the use of a weapon.

  • 31% of assaults on police officers result in an injury to the officer. 
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Study Overview

Our analysis of FBI data reveals that 11.9% of police officers – nearly one in eight – were victims of assault while on duty in 2020. A total of 60,105 officers were reported assault victims, many with guns, knives and other weapons. 

Each year, the FBI releases Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) data. 2020 is the most recent year of state level data available. Not every law enforcement agency reports assault data to the FBI, so nine states with limited statistical representation are excluded from our report. The data includes duly sworn federal, state, city, county, university, college and tribal law enforcement officers. 

The table below shows the total number and percentage of law enforcement officers in each state who were assaulted on the job in 2020. 

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2020 Law Enforcement Officers Assaulted by State

A total of 505,212 officers were included in the FBI data, or 72.5% of all police officers in the U.S. in 2020. The officers included in the data were taken from 9,895 different law enforcement agencies and serve more than 235.5 million people, or 71.5% of the population.  

Prominent national events and the COVID-19 pandemic brought additional stressors to many law enforcement officers.

According to the American Journal of Criminal Justice, “Racial tension towards police escalated during the pandemic due to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of officers in Kentucky and Minnesota, respectively. Urban centers drew crowds protesting, rioting, and looting; officers in large agencies became both the focus of acrimony and responsible for ensuring unruly crowds’ safety from a viral threat.”

In 2020, “law enforcement was responsible for both providing a presence to deter violent and unruly behavior, but also to encourage social distancing and use of face masks and other protective wear – an unprecedented dual responsibility.” – Stogner J, et al. American Journal of Criminal Justice.1

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States With the Highest Rates of Assault on Police Officers

Nearly two out of every three police officers in Alaska were victims of assault in 2020. 

Of the 41 states (and Washington D.C.) that reported data representing at least 50% of the state’s total police officers, Alaska law enforcement officers were assaulted at a rate nearly double that of the next-leading state, Montana.

The 10 states with the highest assault rates on police officers (among states with at least 50% of statewide officers represented in the data) include:

  1. Alaska (64.6%)
  2. Montana (34.2%)
  3. South Dakota (32.9%)
  4. District of Columbia (28.2%)
  5. Arizona (27.5%)
  6. Idaho (25.8%)
  7. Kentucky (20.2%)
  8. Missouri (20.1%)
  9. Indiana (17.8%)
  10. Washington (17.4%)


In Michigan, 0.8% of police officers were assaulted while on duty in 2020. Michigan was joined by Ohio (3.2%), New Jersey (4.2%), Louisiana (4.8%) and Arkansas (7.1%) as having the lowest rates of assaults on officers. 

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Descriptions of Assaults on Police Officers

Among the 60,105 officers assaulted in 2020, 29.6% were responding to disturbance calls, 16.1% were attempting other arrests and 12.6% were handling, transporting or maintaining custody of prisoners. 

In one incident, a 37-year-old deputy sheriff was stabbed when he accompanied another deputy and a mental health case worker to arrest a man who violated the requirements of a court-ordered mental health treatment program. The man used a knife to stab the officer through the partially opened front door. The officer survived a 4-inch cut to his forearm with first aid from his assisting officer.2

Of all officers who were reported assault victims in 2020:

  • 73.9% were assaulted by the assailant’s hands or feet.
  • 4.6% were assaulted with a firearm.
  • 2.0% were assaulted with a knife or other cutting instrument.
  • 19.6% were assaulted with another type of dangerous weapon.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63.4%) were assigned to a one-deputy patrol car at the time of the assault.
  • 16.2% were part of a two-deputy patrol vehicle.
  • 3.6% were performing detective duties or special assignments.
  • 16.8% were assaulted while assigned to other duties. 

In another documented incident, a 22-year-old patrol officer in his second year of duty was shot three times while assisting another officer in executing a felony warrant. The suspect was under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of the shooting. The officer survived despite multiple gunshot wounds to the back, arms, shoulder and chest.2

Nearly 31% of the reported assaults resulted in an injury to the police officer.

  • 25.8% of assaults with hands or feet resulted in injury to the officer. 
  • 9.7% of assaults involving a knife or cutting instrument resulted in injury.
  • 6.1% of officers assaulted with a firearm suffered an injury.
  • 16.8% of officers who were assaulted with other dangerous weapons were injured. 
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States With Highest Rates of Law Enforcement Officer Shootings

Assaults on law enforcement officers that involve the assailant's use of firearms are especially dangerous to officers, the assailant and any bystanders who happen to be near the incident.

The following states reported more than 100 assaults on law enforcement officers that involved the use of a firearm in 2020.

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States With Most Firearm Assaults on Law Enforcement Officers 2020
  Number of Victim Officers Percentage of All Assaulted Officers
United States 2,744 4.6%
California 379 3.3%
Texas 333 6.2%
Florida 240 4.2%
Tennessee 203 10.2%
Arizona 167 6.5%
Missouri 159 8.1%
North Carolina 134 5.1%
Colorado 114 7.2%


The rate of police officers shot in 2020 was more than one per day in California, and the rate was nearly one per day (a rate of more than 0.5 per day) in Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

Of all law enforcement officers assaulted nationwide in 2020, just under 5% were victims of assault by a firearm.

  • The rate of firearm assaults on officers in Tennessee was more than double the national rate, at 10.2% of all officers who were victims of assault.
  • 379 officers were victims of firearm assault in California. Texas was the only other state reporting more than 300 officers shot in 2020.
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Conclusion

Police officers are assaulted on the job at a national rate of nearly 12%, and the assault rate varies significantly between states. Assaults using the hands and feet are the most common, and nearly one out of every three assaults results in an injury to the officer. Officers assigned to one-deputy patrol vehicles are at the greatest risk of an assault.

1 Stogner, J., Miller, B.L. & McLean, K. (June 26, 2020). Police Stress, Mental Health, and Resiliency during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Am J Crim Just 45, 718–730 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-020-09548-y.

2 FBI. Selected Summaries of Officers Assaulted and Injured with Firearms or Knives/Other Cutting Instruments. (2020). Retrieved from "Officers Assaulted File, 2020." https://crime-data-explorer.app.cloud.gov/pages/downloads#leokaDownloads.

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