End of Watch: October 2011

(Photo Dale Stockton)

During October, seven officers in this country lost their lives in the line of duty. As tragic as the loss of these seven officers is, this is the lowest level of loss we have had in any month this year. In fact, it’s also lower than any month during all of 2010. Any loss is devastating and should never be deemed acceptable, but I’m thankful that we have a break from a seemingly endless string of months with double digit losses.

As of Nov. 1, 2011, our line of duty deaths total 138 according to our partners at the Officer Down Memorial Page. This is down 1% compared to the same time last year. Although the LODD total is essentially equal to the previous year, there are some very significant differences. Deaths attributable to gunfire are notably higher, up 13% compared to last year, and deaths attributable to vehicle incidents are markedly lower, down 20% compared to the same period in 2010.

Of the seven officers who died during October, four died in vehicle related incidents. Two were struck by vehicles while they were deploying a tire deflation device. (Note: These were two separate incidents.) One officer was struck head-on by a drunk driver. One officer was killed during a pursuit when her vehicle collided with another police vehicle and then burst into flames after it crashed into a tree.

Three law officers were killed by gunfire during October. A deputy sheriff was shot multiple times with an M4 by a subject who subsequently committed suicide. A K-9 officer was shot multiple times by a subject who was hiding in the back of an SUV and suddenly jumped up, firing at the officer. The subject fled but was later killed in a gunfight with other officers. A patrol officer was shot by a parolee who then tried to flee but was shot and critically wounded by other officers.

It should be a given that we honor those who have fallen. However, we also owe these officers an objective examination of every loss to determine where changes can be made to prevent future deaths. All of them would want something to be gained from their sacrifice. Even with the brief descriptions provided above, it’s clear that there are areas for constructive change and improvement in safety. Doing this will save lives.

Although vehicle related deaths are down 20% compared to last year, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. This is an area where we have the most control. Many officers continue to drive faster than necessary and sadly, many still believe that the seat belt isn’t a piece of safety equipment. This defies all common sense. Remember the first three tenets of Below 100: Wear your belt. Wear your vest. Watch your speed. These three very simple and straightforward actions will dramatically improve your chances of survival when operating a vehicle.

Two of the seven officers who died this month were deploying tire deflation devices at the time of their death. ‘This is an area where we have lost many officers and hundreds have been seriously injured. It’s a very dangerous task and should not be undertaken lightly. (Check out LawOfficer.com’s story 8 Tips for Safely Deploying Tire-Deflation Devices).

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make this situation better. Have the courage to say something when you see an officer taking unnecessary chances, not wearing body armor, not using safety equipment or going without a seat belt. These conversations are not easy but they are absolutely necessary.

Model safe practices! If you’re an FTO, and you tell a trainee that they don’t need to wear their seat belt, you are absolutely putting that officer at risk for the rest of his or her career. Think about this: If an officer you trained was ejected and died from a vehicle because they were not wearing their seat belt, could you live with that? The same goes for wearing body armor. If you minimize the benefits of body armor and demonstrate that you don’t regularly wear it, you are ultimately putting other officers at risk both by the example you set and the fact that they may have to come in and rescue you. There’s a reason that these items are called safety equipment. Use them!

END OF WATCH: October 2011
Law Officer thanks each of these officers for their service, and sends its sincerest condolences to their friends, families and fellow brothers and sisters in blue.

Oct. 7: Captain John Wayne Haddock, Grenada (Miss.) Police Department
Mississippi Police Captain Hit by Car Traveling 100 MPH, Killed

Oct. 12: Patrolman Derek Kotecki, Lower Burrell (Pa.) Police Department
Western Pennsylvania Officer Killed; Fugitive Had Threatened Officers Earlier

Oct. 13: Police Officer Trevor Slot, Walker (Mich.) Police Department
Mich. Officer Run Over, Killed Chasing Suspected Bank Robbers

Oct. 16: Patrolman Joseph Wargo, Mount Arlington (N.J.) Police Department
Northern N.J. Police Officer Killed in Crash

Oct. 23: Deputy Sheriff James "JD" D. Paugh, Richmond (Ga.) County Sheriff's Office
National Guardsman Kills Richmond County Deputy, Turns Gun on Self

Oct. 28: Police Officer Terry Lewis-Fleming, Albany (Ga.) Police Department
Albany Officer Dies in Crash During Chase

Oct. 29: Police Officer Brad Jones, Glendale (Ariz.) Police Department
Arizona Officer Shot, Killed Assisting Probation Officer


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