With a Heavy Heart ...

The 100th line-of-duty death this year happened yesterday in Maryland. Officer Kevin Bowden, 28, Prince George’s County PD (PGPD), died in a horrific crash into a street pole after colliding with a vehicle that had pulled in front of him. Bowden’s vehicle was nearly cut in half by the pole. Details are still emerging, but the bottom line is that another officer has been lost and another family faces the loss of a loved one. Compounding this tragedy, Bowden is the second PGPD officer to die in a vehicle crash during the last two months. PGPD Officer Adrian Morris died on August 20th when his vehicle went into a ravine during the chase of a theft suspect. Morris was ejected from the vehicle.

So far this year, 45 officers have died in vehicle-related incidents while gunfire has claimed 35. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the most deadly threat faced by officers in this country isn’t an armed criminal, but the roadway they patrol. Vehicle deaths have outnumbered gunfire for all but one of the last 15 years. 

At the end of every month, Law Officer publishes a summary of the most recent LODDs in partnership with the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP.org). I’ve read through literally thousands of these summaries and I’m absolutely convinced that more than one-third of our losses are absolutely preventable. That’s what the Below 100 mission is all about—driving down annual line-of-duty deaths to less than 100 by concentrating on areas where officers can directly influence the outcome. We’re not going to hit the Below 100 goal this year, but we’re still down almost one-third from this time last year. That’s progress that shouldn’t be ignored. More importantly, it’s ground that we should never give back.

Every LODD should serve as a survival lesson for the living. The reality of policing is that not every LODD is preventable, but we’ve lost way too many officers where use of safety equipment or common sense could have prevented a tragedy. This must change.

Here’s a challenge to each of you: Have the courageous conversation with those who need to embrace the tenets of Below 100. And model the behavior as an example to others. The life you save may be your own!

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