By John Firman, Director, Research Center Directorate, IACP; and Erin Vermilye, SACOP Manager, IACP
he IACP President Mark A. Marshall, Chief of Police, Smithfield Police Department, Smithfield, Virginia, stated in his March message to Police Chief readers,
The horrific shootings of multiple police officers already in 2011 have made officer safety a large issue on my mind and on the minds of every police chief in this country. After witnessing a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of officers killed in the line of duty in 2010, we have observed that 2011 so far has been even more deadly. It is imperative that we continually evaluate and develop techniques that will protect our officers when they are confronted by someone who will not hesitate to injure or kill them. We owe this to those who put their lives on the line every day for the freedoms we cherish.
Careers in law enforcement are some of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs in the world, but, unfortunately, these jobs come with a guarantee of risks. In fact, they come with a very long list of required duties that can result in officer injury, officer death, or damages to officer mental health. Potentially dangerous law enforcement duties include the following:
- Engaging in foot pursuits
- Participating in vehicular pursuits
- Making traffic stops
- Responding to and being involved in vehicular crashes
- Negotiating with subjects who resist law enforcement intervention
- Avoiding suspect use of force (physical, impact, chemical, electronic, lethal, and so on)
When these potentials for physical and psychological injury to police officers are considered together, it is evident that a good deal of research, policy development, and training delivery are necessary to ensure that all officers have the capacity to remain as injury free as is reasonably possible.
The IACP has long been concerned with officer safety. In support of the 2006 IACP Resolution “A Vision for Officer Safety,” submitted by the Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police (SACOP), the IACP has, over the past decade, created a significant portfolio of efforts to help prevent andb reduce injuries, including the following:
- Saved by the Vest campaign, initiated by SafeShield in conjunction with the IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club®
- National Law Enforcement Challenge (on seat belt use)
- Preventing Law Enforcement Officer Suicide
- Your Vest Won’t Stop This Bullet
- Law Enforcement Stops and Safety Subcommittee
- Reducing Officer Injuries: Developing Policy Responses
Taken as a whole, these efforts have informed the law enforcement field on a variety of best practices in both policies and training that have helped to protect officer safety.
As you read the articles in this issue on the topic of officer safety, you will notice that they all focus on one particular area of injury: felonious assaults on officers. Sixty-one officers were shot and killed in felonious assaults in 2010, and 32 officers have died by gunfire already in 2011 as of late April, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. These numbers demonstrate how critical a topic officer safety is for the entire law enforcement and justice community. And, while this is only one piece of the officer safety puzzle, it is one that troubles us deeply. When a felonious assault results in the death of an officer, a rewarding and fulfilling career is over—abruptly and devastatingly to fellow officers, families, and friends.
The IACP, through the work of its members, its committees, its sections, and its partnerships with both public and private partners, has taken on the issue of violence against the police in an aggressive fashion. In this issue of Police Chief magazine, you will read about four key areas of our response:
- An analysis of the violence threat level for officers as they respond to calls for service involving domestic violence
- A report on the progress made, to date, on protective vests and the obstacles remaining to achieve 100 percent vest wear by all officers
- The Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) new Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) training initiative on what officers must know to survive deadly encounters
- The IACP/BJA newly created National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police, and how it will help reduce both felonious assaults and fatal outcomes
The work to keep our officers safe from injury never ends. We hope that you will not only gain useful information from these articles but also join with us as we continue to advance the knowledge of officer safety. One way for you to do this is to reach out to our National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police—e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org—to give us ideas for issues on which to focus. Another way to become involved is to participate in SafeShield meetings that take place at the annual IACP conference and at the SACOP Midyear Meeting, where you can share innovative safety approaches you have used in your individual agencies.
Finally, the IACP asks you to encourage each of your officers to take the fundamental and critical steps of wearing body armor and using seat belts to protect them and to ensure that they return home safely at the end of the day. ■
Please cite as:
John Firman and Erin Vermilye, “Research, Policy, and Training Improve Officer Safety,” The Police Chief 78 (May 2011): 22.