FEATURED IN BELOW 100
The FBI yesterday distributed a press release announcing the completion of the 2011 LEOKA (Law Enforcement Offices Killed and Assaulted) report. This report, an in-depth summary of law enforcement deaths and assaults, is an invaluable tool for all officers, especially trainers. However, their latest press release is, at best, misleading.
Let’s start with the first line: “Tragically, during 2011, 72 law enforcement officers from around the nation were killed in the line of duty, while another 53 officers died in accidents while performing their duties.”
Given the reputation of LEOKA, I’m disappointed by this statement. It clearly suggests that those who died in accident-related incidents did not die in the line of duty. That’s just wrong. If you’re wondering what’s the big deal, it’s actually two issues:
- This press release will be carried by every news outlet in the country. The reference to 72 officers being killed in the line of duty is very far from the truth and only serves to mislead the public as to the true line-of-duty death situation in law enforcement. In truth, 174 officers died in the LODD situations last year according to ODMP (www.ODMP.org).
- If I were a friend or family member of one of the more than 100 officers that were not included in their statement, I’d be livid. To differentiate the manner of death as to whether or not it merits being called line-of-duty is both ignorant and insensitive.
The fact is this: Police work is unpredictable and, at times, dangerous. Last year we had an officer struck by lightning and another who was killed by a marauding cow; six more died as a result of injuries sustained during the 9/11 attack. To somehow imply that an LODD is any less tragic because it was not a result of a felony assault is inappropriate at best.
There are other problems with this press release, including a large graphic that cites the activities of officers killed or assaulted that provides no frame of reference as to the period involved. Specifically, one of the pie charts breaks down the activity of the officers at the time of assault in 587,007 occurrences. Since the chart is displayed just above the first sentence of the press release, it would be all too easy to assume that is the figure for 2011. If that seems like an astronomically high number for 2011, you’re right. If you do enough checking into the actual report (it’s nowhere in the press release), you’ll find that the number represents a period of ten years! You’d never know that from the press release.
I encourage all of you to ignore this press release and, instead, take a look at the more informative and valuable LEOKA report. We will be taking a very close look at the entire LEOKA document and sharing key learning points with you. For instance, here’s one big takeaway: Almost one out of three officers killed by gunfire were not wearing body armor. That’s something we have to change.
It is important that we honor the fallen by training the living. That is how we will reach the goal set forth by Below 100. We can drive down line of duty deaths to less than 100 per year by concentrating on areas that officers have some degree of control over. This is the quickest and most effective route to improving officer safety. For more information on Below 100, go to www.Below100.com.