New Body Armor Standard
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, has released a new performance standard for body armor.
The new standard includes more rigorous testing and methods that expose body armor to temperature, humidity, and wear and tear prior to testing performance. Performance standards ensure that commercially available body armor, such as bullet-resistant vests, provides a minimum level of protection. The NIJ has published standards for both ballistic and stab resistance of personal body armor for law enforcement and corrections officers.
“This important advancement in body armor standards is in direct response to changes in threats faced by law enforcement, advances in ballistic materials and technology, and the need to ensure that body armor performs well when subjected to environmental factors,” said U.S. associate attorney general Kevin O’Connor. “Body armor standards are needed to ensure that law enforcement and corrections officers’ equipment provides a high level of safety and protection.”
The new standard is a major component in the department’s 2003 Body Armor Safety Initiative, established in response to concerns from the law enforcement community about the effectiveness of body armor then in use. As part of the initiative, the NIJ developed the enhanced compliance testing program in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Office of Law Enforcement Standards.
With the release of this new standard, law enforcement officers will not immediately need to replace the body armor they currently own. The NIJ encourages officers to continue to wear body armor listed on its comprehensive list of models compliant with NIJ standards. The listing is located on the NIJ’s Justice Technology Center Network Web site at http://www.justnet.org/BatPro/. The NIJ recommends replacing armor when its useful service life has expired with armor that meets the requirements of the new standard.
More information on the new body armor standard and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Body Armor Safety Initiative is available at http://www.ojp.gov/nij/topics/technology/body-armor/safety-initiative.htm. More details about the new standard will be published in the October issue of the Police Chief.
Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Plummet 41 Percent during First Six Months of 2008
After an unexpected surge in 2007, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the United States plummeted 41 percent during the first six months of this year, reaching the lowest level in more than four decades, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) have announced.
The groups’ preliminary data show that 59 officers died between January 1 and June 30, 2008. The last time the midyear total was that low was 1965, when there were 55 line-of-duty deaths. By comparison, 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the first six months of 2007. That was the highest six-month total since 1978. By the end of 2007, a total of 181 law enforcement officers had lost their lives in the line of duty—a figure 20 percent higher than the previous year.
“While these statistics offer little comfort to the loved ones and colleagues of the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice this year, for the law enforcement profession as a whole the preliminary numbers for 2008 are encouraging, especially in light of the dramatic increase in officer deaths that occurred just last year,” said NLEOMF chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “It is our hope that 2008 will usher in a new era in which far fewer law enforcement officers are injured or killed in the line of duty,” he added.
“The tremendous decrease in officer deaths so far this year is encouraging. However, the families of America’s law enforcement officers know full well that every day is filled with risk and at any time the number of officer deaths can soar again,” said Jennifer Thacker, C.O.P.S. national president. “C.O.P.S. is seeing an increase in the number of requests for services from our membership because of the large number of deaths in 2007. We hope and pray that the number of law enforcement line-of-duty deaths will continue to decrease,” she said.
This year’s decline has been driven by substantial reductions in all types of officer deaths, especially fatal shootings. The number of officers shot and killed declined 45 percent, from 38 during the first half of 2007 to 21 this year. That was the lowest number of firearms-related fatalities since 1960, when there were 18 such deaths.
Traffic-related deaths were down by nearly 35 percent, from 46 during the first half of 2007 to 30 in 2008. Among those, 21 officers died in automobile crashes, 3 died in motorcycle crashes, and 6 were struck and killed by other automobiles while outside their own vehicles. If current trends continue, 2008 will be the 11th year in a row in which more officers are killed in traffic-related incidents than by gunfire or any other single cause of death.
Eight officers died during the first six months of 2008 from other causes, including five who succumbed to job-related physical illnesses and two who were fatally stabbed.
Texas, with seven deaths, experienced the most law enforcement officer fatalities of any state during the first half of 2008. California had five fatalities, followed by Georgia, with four, and Ohio and Oklahoma, with three each. Twenty-six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced officer fatalities between January 1 and June 30. Four members of federal law enforcement agencies also died during this time period.
Saying that it is impossible to isolate a single cause for this year’s stunning decline in officer fatalities, Floyd noted that increased awareness of officer safety issues was undoubtedly a factor. “The dramatic surge in officer fatalities in 2007 grabbed the attention of law enforcement professionals, policy makers, and trainers across the nation, which in turn prompted many agencies to bolster their officer safety procedures and equipment,” he said. “Last year’s shockingly high fatality figures were an important reminder to officers to treat every assignment as if it were potentially life-threatening, no matter how routine or benign it might seem.” Floyd also credited an increased emphasis on law enforcement driver training, “move over” laws, and other traffic safety measures for making it safer for officers on U.S. roadways, where the majority of fallen officers lose their lives.
The statistics released by the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. are preliminary and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2008. The report, “Law Enforcement Officer Deaths: Mid-Year 2008,” is available at http://www.nleomf.org/TheMemorial/Facts/2008_MidYear_Report.pdf.
For information on the programs that C.O.P.S. offers to the surviving families of the United States’ fallen law enforcement heroes, visit www.nationalcops.org.
While officer deaths are at the lowest midyear total in more than four decades, traffic incidents continue to claim the most lives. The IACP has several resources available to assist police departments in reducing traffic incidents, including two videos: Your Vest Won’t Stop This Bullet (promoting greater awareness of the perils inherent in traffic stops and other roadside contacts) and P.U.R.S.U.E. (providing guidance to officers to improve decision making during pursuits). Additionally, Staff Study 2004, 2006 Staff Report, Highway Safety Desk Book, Manual of Police Traffic Services Policies and Procedures, and other material developed by the Highway Safety Committee and by the Law Enforcement Stops and Safety Subcommittee can be downloaded at www.patrolvehiclesafety.org. For more information about officer safety on the highways, readers may contact Richard Ashton at 1-800-THE-IACP, extension 276, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
National Law Enforcement Memorial Visitors Center Relocates
After several years in the AARP Building on E Street in Northwest Washington, D.C., the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Visitors Center and Store has moved to a new location in the Penn Quarter neighborhood: 400 7th Street NW. Situated just a few blocks from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (400 block of E Street NW), the new Visitors Center and Store occupies the ground floor of the Jenifer Building, at the corner of 7th and D Streets NW, where the Memorial Fund’s administrative offices are also located.
The new facility will continue to offer interesting information about the law enforcement profession and the national memorial to fallen officers. An interactive video system provides facts and figures about the memorial and the officers whose names are engraved there. There is also a replica of the memorial wall, along with some of the personal mementos that visitors have left at the memorial in recent years: touching notes and poems, police patches, photographs, and other compelling items.
Founded in 1984, the nonprofit NLEOMF works to increase public support for law enforcement by permanently recording and appropriately commemorating the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers, as well as to provide information that promotes law enforcement safety. In 1991, the NLEOMF dedicated the memorial, where the names of more than 18,200 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history are engraved. The NLEOMF is now leading the effort to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum across E Street from the memorial.
For more information, readers can visit www.nleomf.org.
Public Safety Clearinghouse
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) has launched a clearinghouse dedicated to the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of public safety communications information. This site contains information for first responders.
Topics include the following:
- Best practices
- Case studies/lessons learned
- Communications plans
- Continuity plans
- Emergency plans
- Frequently asked questions
- Federal resources/grant information
- Interoperability plans
- Reference materials
Readers can visit the PSHSB clearinghouse at http://www.fcc.gov/pshs/clearinghouse.
LEO Outreach to Law Enforcement
Law Enforcement Online (LEO) is an information-sharing system certified and accredited by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). LEO is a controlled-access communications and information-sharing data repository available online seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to law enforcement, first responders, criminal justice professionals, and antiterrorism and intelligence agencies around the globe.
Lesley G. Koestner, supervisory special agent, LEO Unit, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, reports that LEO catalyzes and strengthens collaboration and information sharing by providing access to sensitive but unclassified information and various state-of-the-art communications services and tools. It is available to vetted users anywhere in the world and is offered free of charge to members. LEO is providing a communications mechanism to link all levels of the law enforcement community, supporting broad, immediate dissemination of information concerning the best technologies and practices in the law enforcement profession.
LEO was created in 1995 as a small, dial-up service with just 20 members. Today it has more than 100,000 members across the world and supports a host of features and capabilities offered through a virtual private network on the Internet. Among its features are the following:
- A national alert system providing members with up-to-the-minute information concerning emergency situations
- Over 540 special interest groups that allow members who share expertise or interests to connect with each other
- Access to important and useful databases, such as those run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, and the Bomb Data Center
- Secure e-mail services, which enable members to submit fingerprints to the FBI for processing by the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System
- Virtual Command Center, a real-time information-sharing and crisis management tool that allows the law enforcement community to use LEO at local and remote sites as an electronic command center to submit and view information and intelligence
- Distance learning, with several online learning modules on numerous topics including terrorism response, forensic anthropology, and leadership
- A multimedia library of publications, documents, studies, research, technical bulletins, and other reports of interest to LEO users
Members of the law enforcement, criminal justice, or public safety communities are eligible for LEO membership. For more information on LEO, readers may call 304-625-5555 or send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. ■