By Lydia Blakey, Chief Inspector, U.S. Marshals, and IACP Visiting Fellow; and David Chipman, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and IACP Visiting Fellow
uring these challenging economic times, law enforcement executives are having to compromise in many areas. Even when facing difficult choices, one area on which no law enforcement executive is willing to compromise is the safety of their officers. The numerous high-profile felonious assaults and killings of officers in the line of duty in the first several months of 2011 serve as tragic reminders that resources to enhance officer safety and prevent violence against law enforcement remain critically necessary.
Prompted by a clustering of ambush assaults resulting in multiple deaths of officers in several jurisdictions across the United States, the IACP Research Advisory Committee proposed the initial concept for a project to address violence directed against law enforcement. In 2010, then–IACP President Michael J. Carroll called for the development of a plan to explore and ultimately prevent felonious assaults on law enforcement officers. With President Carroll’s concern and commitment, the idea developed into a presidential initiative. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the IACP announced the official launch of the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police (the National Center) in October 2010. This presidential initiative is an ongoing priority for current IACP President Mark Marshall.
The Mission of the National Center
The mission of the National Center is to learn, through analysis of data, forensic interviews, and postincident investigations, how violence against law enforcement officers can be prevented. The focus of the National Center’s work will be on factors influencing line of duty deaths and felonious assaults against law enforcement. The National Center will conduct research and analysis, translate the findings into actionable information, and disseminate recommendations to the field with the goal of preventing future assaults against law enforcement.
Throughout the past decade, the IACP State Associations of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) Division has supported an omni bus safety program to reduce and prevent officer injuries and death and improve officer health and well-being. Components of this effort include the following:
SafeShield: an omnibus officer safety initiative examining all aspects of injuries and death, with a focus on zero tolerance for all injuries through enhanced education and training, policies, uniforms, and equipment
IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club®: a program to increase officer use of vests based on education about lives saved and managed by SACOP on behalf of the IACP
Law Enforcement Stops and Safety Subcommittee: a Highway Safety Subcommittee targeting highway safety for officers focusing on traffic stop actions, decision making during pursuits, and best traffic safety practices
National Law Enforcement Challenge (on seat belt use): an ongoing award program recognizing best overall traffic safety programs
Preventing Law Enforcement Officer Suicide: a compilation of resources and best practices to help agencies focus on prevention and intervention
The National Center was proposed to add to these efforts and address the critical aspects of officer injury and death. The National Center, with its tight focus on preventing violence against officers, is the newest component of the IACP officer health and safety initiatives and will inform as well as broaden the value of the overall program.
The Focus of the National Center
The National Center recognizes the continuum of factors that contribute to an assault against an officer, including (1) preincident variables (for example, community relations and crime problems; a suspect’s prior contacts with the criminal justice system; justice system issues; and officer training, policies, and equipment); (2) incident variables (for example, situational dynamics, environmental factors, a suspect’s actions and use of force, and officer response); and (3) postincident variables (how investigations into fatal incidents are undertaken and how resulting adjustments are made to policies, procedures, and training). This continuum offers macro- and micro-level variables to consider. The National Center will examine the available data to identify key themes, issues, and trends that may be evident and develop opportunities to transform deadly incidents into teachable moments to provide guidance to law enforcement agencies on how to prevent felonious assaults.
The National Center will continuously update its efforts using existing and potentially new data (as is necessary) to ascertain what changes in preincident, incident, and postincident actions are likely to make the most difference in preventing felonious assaults against law enforcement. The policy areas where research can have a significant impact and address the most critical issues will always be the highest priority. The National Center’s ability to impact felonious assaults is reliant on asking the right questions and maximizing the value of existing data and the development of needed data to answer those questions.
The Impact of the National Center
Throughout the initial year of activity, the National Center will begin to formulate questions and undertake the analysis of data on felonious assaults against officers. The results will be developed into a variety of products, including informational briefs, for dissemination directly to the field. The National Center intends for all resources and products to be easily accessed by law enforcement leaders so executives can make informed decisions based on research findings and analysis. This will support improvements both for individual law enforcement agencies and the broader law enforcement community. The National Center will also be developing tools to help enhance the law enforcement field’s ability to learn from incidents of violence against the police.
|The National Center’s Activities and Products|
- The analysis of existing data to identify gaps; the development of strategies for collection of needed data (including potentially conducting forensic interviews); and recommendations for preventing assaults against law enforcement
- Intermittent informational briefs summarizing key preliminary findings
- Sample postincident protocol for investigating felonious assaults against law enforcement
- An interactive website to facilitate the sharing of various types of information on felonious assaults against law enforcement and to promote officer safety
- The National Center updates in Police Chief magazine and other law enforcement publications
- A year-one status report on the National Center
The National Center efforts will result in a more complete understanding of the issues relative to felonious assaults on officers. Going beyond annual data summaries of officers killed and assaulted, the National Center will work to translate the data into actionable information for the field. This will position law enforcement leaders to make better informed decisions about policies, procedures, and training. Products emanating from the National Center will address and help improve outcomes along the felonious assault continuum.
It is anticipated that the work of the National Center will have implications for the broader criminal justice system. Efforts will be made to identify significant variables related to the perpetrators of assaults against law enforcement. This may include an examination of how pretrial release or probation determinations are made. Broader gun violence issues, such as a protocol to keep prohibited persons from obtaining or possessing firearms, may also be linked to the work of the National Center. The National Center will alert the field, as appropriate, when data shows that changes in the justice system can positively influence officer and community safety.
While the mission of the National Center is to prevent violence against law enforcement, there are valuable lessons to be learned from postincident evaluations. Presently, there is not one common standard for how investigations of fatal incidents are conducted, who is responsible for conducting them, or what core investigative questions are asked. The development of a sample postincident protocol for investigating felonious assaults against law enforcement will better position the agency involved, as well as other agencies across the country, to learn from the incident and make policy and/or training enhancements as necessary.
The Method of the National Center
The work of the National Center is intended to have significant application for law enforcement leaders and their agencies. Therefore, it is critical that the efforts of the National Center be informed by an understanding of the needs in the field. An advisory group representing multiple stakeholders, including law enforcement executives, law enforcement researchers, law enforcement trainers, and data providers, will provide guidance to the National Center. The advisory group will serve to support and coordinate the efforts of the National Center with other officer safety programs including the BJA Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) initiative, which is focused on training officers to anticipate and survive felonious assaults. The composition of the advisory group includes individuals with diverse perspectives and extensive expertise in officer safety, research, and violence against law enforcement. In addition to guiding the mission and work of the National Center, the advisory group will actively disseminate findings and recommendations as well as advocate for change in the field.
|The National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police Advisory Group Representation|
- The IACP Patrol and Tactical Operations Committee
- The IACP Police Physicians Section
- The IACP Police Psychological Services Section
- The IACP Professional Standards Committee
- The IACP Police Image and Ethics Committee
- The IACP Research Advisory Committee
- The IACP SACOP Division
- The IACP SafeShield Committee
- The IACP State and Provincial Division
- The BJA VALOR Initiative
- The FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program
- The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
- The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training
In addition to the guidance of the advisory group, the National Center will work with a variety of agencies that currently collect data on felonious assaults and line of duty deaths for law enforcement.
The National Center will make effective use of existing data sources detailing felonious assaults involving law enforcement officers and will collect additional data only once it is determined that similar data are not already available from other reliable data sources. To achieve this, the National Center has established partnerships with many of the primary data gathering and tracking entities, including the FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted program (http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/killed/2009/index.html) and the National Law Enforce ment Officers Memorial Fund (http://www.nleomf.com/), among several others.
What Can Be Done Right Now?
To advance its mission and have a significant impact on preventing violence against law enforcement, the National Center will remain steadfastly focused on identifying and disseminating information that results in
- better agency-level policies and training for officers (prevention);
- better prepared officers (preincident and during the incident);
- a reduction in injuries and fatalities; and
- a reduction of felonious assaults.
To support the mission of the National Center, the IACP calls upon its members to become involved. Please contact the National Center at NCPVAP@theiacp.org if you have officer safety strategies, policies, postincident investigative protocols to share, or a specific question related to felonious assaults against officers that you would like addressed. Additional information on the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police is available at http://www.theiacp.org/NCPVAP. ■
Please cite as:
Lydia Blakey and David Chipman, “The IACP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance Create the National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police,” The Police Chief 78 (May 2011): 38–40.