A Challenge to Chiefs & Change Agents

This is our IACP issue, which gets read by police leaders who may not normally receive our magazine. Consequently, I want to call attention to Below 100 and leadership.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Below 100 is an initiative to drive the number of annual line-of-duty deaths to less than one hundred, a level not seen in 65 years. More than just a catchy name, Below 100 is multi-faceted and yet easy to understand. It’s designed to do one thing: save lives. The truth: Too many cops are dying unnecessarily, and this isn’t going to change without a significant cultural shift within our profession.

Anyone with the responsibility of leadership—obviously the chiefs, but also our core readers, the trainers and supervisors—must get real. If we’re to be successful, it’s vitally important that police leaders live up to one of their basic responsibilities: protecting their troops.  

First, a quick review of the basic tenets of Below 100.

• Wear your belt.

• Wear your vest.

• Watch your speed.

• WIN—What’s Important Now?

Remember: Complacency Kills!

These five phrases cover areas that are both achievable and impacting. Yes, I know there’s been an uptick in targeted attacks on police, and I’m not suggesting that dangerous situational trends be ignored. (Did you notice the last two bullet points above?) However, I am saying, if properly addressed and hammered into an organization like the cornerstone of a building, these five simple phrases will have more impact and save more lives than anything else we can do. This is a pretty bold statement, but these five areas were identified by some of the most brilliant and influential trainers out there. Below 100 directly addresses the most common and preventable areas that result in line-of-duty deaths.

Law enforcement culture is such that old habits die hard. Since Below 100 launched, I’ve heard many experienced officers excuse risky behavior by making such statements as, “Seat belts make cops feel like they’re trapped or can’t respond; besides, the vehicle code exempts us from wearing them”; “Vests are too hot, too bulky, too stiff and don’t really work”; “Cops drive fast because they can”; and “Nothing will change the attitude that nothing happens around here.”

I’m sure you’ve heard similar statements. You may even have said them. But it’s time for the excuses to stop and for leaders to do the right thing.

The Basics
The first place to start is by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Do you require personnel to wear their seatbelts? (Do supervisors actually hold them accountable, including noting it in their evaluations?)

2. Does your agency have a mandatory-wear policy for body armor?

3. Do you expect your officers to drive in a manner that exemplifies safety?

4. Are your field training officers motivated, competent and capable of providing the best example for new personnel?

5. Do you lead by example by wearing your belt and wearing your vest?

By now, I’m sure some of you are already shaking your heads and thinking about the opposition from organized labor. I simply say that you must have the courage and conviction to get this done. Doing the right thing isn’t always popular, and making yourself popular doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing.

To the labor leaders out there, it’s time to do your part. The number of officers dying in traffic-related accidents is unacceptable. Surely it’s better to be disciplined than to die. We can recover from discipline, but death is forever. Any labor group that balks at mandatory use of seatbelts, mandatory wear of body armor or accountability for reckless speeding must ask: Are we helping or hurting our own people?

The commitment of this publication to Below 100 can be seen in the 10-page section beginning on page 34. The authors are the best in their field, and they’re each committed to making Below 100 happen. You’ll see more articles with ties to Below 100. We will work with our partners at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) as well as state training organizations to ensure these concepts become a permanent part of law enforcement culture. We’ll do our part, but we need each of you to do yours. Set the example and speak out. Safety doesn’t happen by accident; it’s an intentional act. Remember: The life you save may be your own.               —Dale Stockton, Editor in chief       

 

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