Fact Check: Jen Psaki's Claim on Police Officer COVID Deaths

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to the number of COVID deaths among police officers when asked about force departures due to vaccine mandates.

The Claim

In a press conference on October 19, Fox News' Peter Doocy asked Psaki about reports of police deciding to "walk off the job" over vaccine mandates.

Psaki said: "What was the number one cause of death among police officers last year? Do you know? COVID-19. So that's something that we're working to address and police departments are working to address."

‘What was the #1 cause of death among police officers last year?…COVID-19’ — Jen Psaki on the importance of vaccine mandates for police officers despite opposition from departments around the country pic.twitter.com/hEloFuOV3F

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 19, 2021

The Facts

The Officer Down Memorial Page details the causes of deaths in the line of duty among law enforcement officers across the United States.

Looking at its statistics for 2020, it recorded that 245 officers died due to "contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty," or were presumed to have been exposed during their duties. This accounted for the majority of the 374 deaths in the line of duty.

COVID-19 was by far the most common recorded cause of death, with gunfire second, having claimed the lives of 45 officers.

A message on the Officer Down Memorial Page site, alongside details of individuals who died, said: "Beginning in early 2020, due to the requirements of their job, thousands of law enforcement officers and other first responders throughout the United States contracted COVID-19 during the worldwide pandemic. Hundreds of law enforcement officers died from medical complications as a result of contracting the virus while remaining on duty and interacting with the community."

A message at the top of the site reads: "COVID is the #1 killer of LEOs in 2020 and 2021." This also encouraged people to get vaccinated.

For 2021, 237 COVID-19 deaths were recorded—again marking the majority for the year to date, with 369 total deaths accounted for.

Both year's tallies put together amounts to nearly 500, with 482 deaths in the line of duty attributed to COVID-19, according to the memorial page site as of October 20.

A report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund similarly showed COVID-19 as the top line of duty cause of death for officers in 2020.

The 2020 Law Enforcement Officers Fatalities Report stated: "As of December 31, 2020, 264 federal, state, military, tribal, and local law enforcement officers died in the line-of-duty in 2020, an increase of 96% from the 135 officers killed during the same period.

"In 2020, officer fatalities ranged from automobile crashes to heart attacks and from gunshots to being beaten to death. Of these tragic deaths, COVID-19 related fatalities were the single highest cause of officer line-of-duty deaths in 2020. Of the 264 officers who have died in the line of duty, there were 145 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

"It must be noted however, as the pandemic rages on, NLEOMF has already identified a significant number of additional COVID-19-related fatalities."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for further comment.

The Ruling

Fact Check - True

True.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Yes, looking at figures from the Officer Down Memorial Page, COVID-19 was the leading cause of line of duty deaths among law enforcement officers in 2020.

It is also the leading cause so far in 2021, as of October 20.

jen psaki at press briefing october 19
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on October 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. During this briefing she referred to deaths of police officers caused by COVID-19. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images