Michael J. Carroll, Chief of Police, West Goshen Township Police Department, West Chester, Pennsylvania
n my address at the Denver conference, I outlined my commitment to safeguarding the lives of our officers. There is nothing of greater importance to me as a police chief than the protection of the men and women on the front line. I know that I am not alone in this belief and realize that, regardless of where we serve, all police chiefs share one key value—one officer being lost is one too many.
It is our responsibility, as police leaders, to provide our officers with the best training and equipment available in order to ensure their safety in the face of the numerous and varied threats they face each and every day.
In light of these important responsibilities, I would like to highlight several programs currently under way at the IACP that are focused on protecting our officers and ensuring that they return home at the end of the day.
IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club®
The International Association of Chiefs of Police and DuPont started the IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club® in 1987. Since then, over 3,000 individuals working in law enforcement have survived both ballistic and non-ballistic incidents because they were wearing body armor. The IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club® consists of officers who have survived potentially fatal and/or disabling injuries through the use of body armor and pays tribute to those who have the foresight to “Dress for Survival.” The Survivors’ Club® goals are the following:
- To reduce death and disability by encouraging increased wearing of body armor
- To recognize and honor those deserving individuals who, as a result of wearing body armor, have survived life- or disability-threatening incidents
- To serve the law enforcement community by collecting important data and sharing valuable information relating to those survivor incidents with other fellow officers
While great strides have been made to provide law enforcement officers with less-lethal force alternatives and first responder protective gear, not as much has been done to address protecting line officers in their daily job functions. Facing the problem of duty injuries, the IACP Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) launched a comprehensive study in an attempt to determine how personal protective garments and equipment can be integrated to form a personal protective system.
The SafeShield project is a long-term project, which examines existing and cutting-edge technology for the purpose of creating a personal protective system for the police officer of the future. The overall goal of the SafeShield project is to provide total police protection by creating a uniform that will provide the officer with a protective structure, incorporating communication, information, and environmental protective systems.
In addition to considering uniform improvement, the SafeShield project will review and recommend sound procedural policies and advocate increasing and improving training. This noble goal is a reflection of the philosophy that serves as the foundation of the SafeShield project. That we, as law enforcement leaders, must not and cannot accept the proposition that accidents, injuries, and deaths are a necessary reality of the law enforcement profession. The SafeShield project is committed to the ideal that the only acceptable operating philosophy for a police chief is zero officers killed or injured.
Law Enforcement Stops and Safety Subcommittee
In addition, the Highway Safety Committee’s Law Enforcement Stops and Safety Subcommittee (LESSS) has sought to reduce the number of officers struck and killed by vehicles. Currently, an average of one police officer is struck and killed each month. To this end, LESSS has assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in developing a new “Analysis of Officers Accidentally Killed” form that will be available later this year. The form will eventually provide much-needed data that will reveal the factors that cause officers’ deaths, allowing us to address them. LESSS also has produced and distributed to U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies three roll call videos: Your Vest Won’t Stop This Bullet, P.U.R.S.U.E., and Saving Lives . . . One Stop at a Time.
However, I believe that, despite all of our efforts to date, more can and must be done to protect our officers and ensure that they have the tools and information they need to safely perform their duties.
Center for Violence against the Police
It is for this reason that I am very pleased to announce that the IACP in partnership with the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety is establishing a Center for Violence against the Police. The center will gather comprehensive data from all 18,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in the United States on officer assaults and other acts of violence toward officers. Center staff will then analyze that data to provide meaningful, life-saving information and direction to the field on how to minimize officer injury and/or death. The essential role of the Center will be to learn from the violent encounter data gathered to enhance the safety of all officers across the country.
The Center will work hand in hand with IACP leadership, in particular the SACOP SafeShield program. Part of the Center’s mission will be to incorporate the body of knowledge the SafeShield project has produced related to the mitigation of duty related injuries, disabilities, and deaths. Once a nationwide database has been created, the fully integrated work of the proposed center, working in conjunction with SACOP’s SafeShield project, will offer a tremendous improvement to the safety and well-being of all law enforcement officers worldwide. ■