Utica, NY (WIBX) - This year marks the highest number of officer fatalities nationwide since 2007.

According to research done by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, so far in 2011, more than 170 police officers have died, representing a 15 percent increase in deaths over last year.

The statistics also show a 16 percent increase in firearms-related deaths over 2010, from 56 to 65. But, the major increase stems from an 88 percent spike in deaths from causes other than guns and traffic accidents, rising from 25 to 47. These types of accidents include falls, illnesses and poisoning, among others.

One spot of good news for this year is a decrease in traffic-related deaths, which have fallen from 71 to 63.

Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol, says the spike in fatalities is not due to a lack of preparedness by police officers, but rather the constant supply of unpredictable situations.

"Police officers on a regular basis, on a daily basis, do go on calls, many of which are very unpredictable as to their outcome," Maciol said. "And as a police administrator, the most important thing we can do is ensure that our people are trained and have the best equipment."

He also said that because of so many unique situations, times when an officer is injured or hurt introduce opportunities to improve officer safety and policy.

"Being a police officer for the past almost 22 years, myself, [I can say] there are no two calls that are alike," Maciol said. "So, I mean each of these things, when they do occur, have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Then the decision is made, if in fact, things need to be changed or not."

According to the group's research, more than 19,000 law enforcement fatalities have taken place since recordkeeping began.

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