GRAPEVINE (AP) – Attorney General Eric Holder said at a law enforcement gathering Wednesday that incidents of violence against officers are approaching the highest levels in almost two decades, representing a crisis.

Holder spoke Wednesday at the Major Cities Chiefs Association meeting in Grapevine, near Dallas. The group includes chiefs and sheriffs of the 63 largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

Holder said in prepared remarks that last year, gun-related deaths surpassed deaths by any other cause among law enforcement personnel for the first time in almost 15 years. He said that so far this year, at least 45 officers have died in the line of duty, with 16 of those killed by gunfire.

Holder, who said his brother is a retired New York-New Jersey Port Authority police officer, told the group the Department of Justice in recent years has made a commitment to protecting officers with various initiatives.

He said at the federal level and in U.S. attorney’s offices across the nation, officials are improving coordination and cooperation with state, local, trial and international partners.

The Justice Department is also implementing initiatives to study crime trends and investing in cutting-edge protective gear and state-of-the-art equipment. The department is also working on training programs to help officers meeting increased violence.

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