By Erin Vermilye, Manager, Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police, IACP; Scott Brien, Project Manager, National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police, IACP; and Stephen Fender, Project Coordinator, National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police, IACP
he International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has always considered the safety of all law enforcement officers its top priority. To ensure safety in the face of numerous and varied threats, it is the responsibility of police leaders to provide officers with the best tools and resources available to meet these challenges.
However, in this age of austerity, the prospect of providing such measures has grown increasingly more difficult. In the face of these obvious hardships, executives have been called upon to “do more with less” while being tasked with hometown security as the basis of homeland security.
This month’s issue of Police Chief magazine will explore multiple officer safety strategies and resources within the broader context of the current climate. In this issue, you will read about four areas of note:
- “Law Enforcement Suicide: Current Knowledge and Future Directions”—a critical look at what type of research is in the field and, more specifically, what other information we need.
- “Dealing with Downed Suspects: Some Lessons from the VALOR Project about How to Properly Manage the Immediate Aftermath of Officer-Involved Shootings”—13 lessons learned that give actionable information to the reader.
- “Shave Seconds, Increase Safety: Innovative Deployment Practices for Critical Equipment Increases Officer Safety”—the Saint Petersburg Police Department tragically lost three officers last year and points to the need for an evaluation after such incidents.
- “Schedule Matters: The Movement to Compressed Work Weeks”—the issue of fatigue and how officers can keep themselves safe by getting proper amounts of sleep through shift recommendations.
Clearly, the issues related to officer safety go beyond simply wearing your vest and seat belt. Officer safety encompasses physical fitness, wellness, methods to avoid injuries, mental health, fatigue, and being prepared to protect yourself against threats that were unimaginable just a decade ago.
Because of this, in 2002 the IACP, through the Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police, initiated the SafeShield project. Founded on the philosophy that law enforcement leaders cannot and should not accept that accidents or injuries are an unavoidable reality of law enforcement, SafeShield is committed to the goal of zero officers killed or injured.
SafeShield focuses on the threats posed to officers in violent encounters and also looks to address the broad array of threats and challenges that endanger the health and wellness of law enforcement officers.
For this reason, the work of the SafeShield initiative spans a wide range of officer safety initiatives, including
- the Reducing Officer Injuries: Developing Policy Responses grant;
- the Highway Safety Committee’s Law Enforcement Stops and Safety (LESS) subcommittee;
- the IACP/Dupont Kevlar Survivors’ Club;
- the IACP’s Tribute to Slain Officers;
- the IACP’s Preventing Police Officer Suicide; and
- the IACP’s National Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police (National Center).
Through the efforts of these initiatives and the SafeShield program, the IACP will continue its efforts to promote the health and safety of law enforcement officers.
As part of this effort, the IACP is proud to announce that Police Chief magazine will start to feature a new monthly column about officer safety. Officer Safety Corner will focus on lessons learned, overall wellness, training, and statistical analysis from the National Center. The mission of the National Center is to prevent felonious assaults against law enforcement through the timely development and dissemination of actionable information.
As the IACP continues its efforts, it is our hope that all law enforcement leaders will embrace the realilty that there is more to officer safety than protective equipment, policies, and training. Protection requires the adoption of a culture of safety that provides officers with the tools, the resources, the support, and the training they need to live a safe, balanced, and healthy life both on and off duty. ■
Please cite as:
Erin Vermilye, Scott Brien, and Stephen Fender, "Creating a Culture of Safety," The Police Chief 79 (May 2012): 22.