By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sixty-six police officers were killed on the job by felons in 2016, up about 61 percent from 41 deaths a year ago, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday.
The number was the second highest since 2011, when 72 officers were killed by felons, according to the FBI report.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement called the numbers "shocking" and "unacceptable," and said the Justice Department would work toward reducing violent crime.
The findings bolster the so-called Blue Lives Matter movement, which advocates tougher hate-crime sentences for the murder of police officers. It was launched in response to Black Lives Matter, a campaign against police brutality toward black men, and gained momentum last year after police officers were killed in both Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Forty-one officers killed last year were employed by city police departments, and 30 officers were located in the U.S. South, the annual data show.
The most common circumstances involved ambushes, followed by responses to disturbance calls.
Accidental deaths of police officers in 2016 rose to 52 from 45 in 2015, mostly involving vehicles, the data show.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the Justice Department to develop strategies to better protect law enforcement officials and pursue legislation to increase penalties against those who kill or injure officers in the line of duty.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Richard Chang)