By Lieutenant Joseph “Paul” Manley, IPSA Memorial Committee
Law enforcement officers’ lives are on the line both on and off duty. They must follow several guidelines and protocols 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help ensure their own safety, the safety of their peers and the people around them.
Officers come across violent and non-violent criminals on a regular basis. In some jurisdictions or beats, this occurs several times during any given shift. Therefore, officers must always think about safety because these interactions with known and unknown offenders puts their safety at a high risk.
A frightening trend
According to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose to their highest level in five years in 2016, with 135 officers killed in the line of duty. This is a 10 percent increase over the 123 who lost their lives in the line of duty in year 2015.
During the first five months of 2017, there have been 55 officer fatalities compared to 39 in the first five months of 2016. That is a 41 percent increase. Based on this current trend, officer fatalities for 2017 may equal or surpass last year.
Throughout the years, data consistently shows that firearms and traffic related fatalities are the leading cause of law enforcement LODDs. Contrary to popular belief, people are not the biggest danger to police officers, but rather traffic fatalities. Except for 2016, traffic fatalities have been the single leading cause of death for officers throughout the years.
The NLEOMF reports that over a 10-year period ending in 2015, an average of 144 officers were killed each year. The report indicates that 64 of these LODDs were feloniously killed per year, while the majority of LODDs are killed by accident or by other means, not necessarily violent attacks.
Officer safety tips
The following four simple and easy safety tips will help ensure officers go home at the end of his or her shift. It is important to remember these four tips and put them into practice.
- Wear your seat belt. A 2014 FBI analysis reported 10 of 28 officers killed in vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts. Six of the 10 vehicle crash victims were ejected from their vehicles during the crashes. According to the NLEOMF, as of June 1, 2017, there have been 23 auto related deaths compared to 21 for the entire year of 2016.The bottom line is to always wear your seat belt. If not for you, then for your families and for our chosen profession.
- Wear your body armor. It will never stop any bullets if it’s hanging in your locker.
- Watch your speed. If your partner is calling for back-up, the best thing you can do to help him or her is to get there. High-speed police chases have killed thousands of innocent bystanders. Victims include the officers involved, small children, teenage drivers and the elderly.
- Use the training and tools you have been given. Know your use-of-force continuum and be comfortable escalating when necessary.
We will never know how many times body armor or seat belts have saved an officer’s life because that data is not collected, but we all can agree that we must work continuously to ensure that officers are provided with the best protective equipment, and that they use it always as a matter of routine.
Following the list of helpful tips is not a guarantee that you will go home at the end of your shift, but these safety tips may help prevent an unnecessary injury or fatality from happening.