AUSTIN, Texas - There are many causes of death for officers killed in the line of duty.
“The majority of officers have been killed by gunfire here historically and presently, after that comes the other reasons,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
Now those other reasons include an invisible enemy....COVID-19. “It's a horrendous pandemic, it's global and in Texas it has had a heavy, heavy toll,” said Wilkison.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund, 106 officers have died this year due to COVID-19 complications. “The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has been the leading authority on all line of duty deaths for the past 30 years. COVID as it has approached has gotten our attention,” said Marcia Ferranto, CEO of The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The data on their website said as of Sept. 3, Texas leads the nation with 24 COVID-19 deaths. Wilkison has an idea why this could be happening.
“Some departments have told officers not to wear PPE, and that they seem threatening and aloof to the public. In rural areas, it's been sketchy on getting PPE. That's why our executive board released emergency money,” he said.
CLEAT has hit the ground running, visiting more than 300 departments providing personal protective equipment. Wilkison said they owe it to all first responders.
“If you have a protest, officers will have to be there, if you have an outbreak in nursing homes, first responders are going to have to wind up transporting those people,” said Wilkison.
WIlkison said in particular, the prisons are just a petri dish. He is hoping that COVID-19 deaths can become a presumptive line of duty death.
“An officer in Nueces County said ‘I just finished my last chemo and here is the letter from the doctor and he doesn’t want me to go in the jail.’ They said ‘Well you’re going in the jail.’ He's dead. All these people have stories. These families are out there now without their breadwinner, without their father, without their husband, fighting to prove that they did die in the line of duty. It's absolute insult to injury,” said Wilkison.
“If we continue on the path that we are going now, COVID- related deaths will surpass 9-11 deaths,” said Ferranto.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.