We just ended a three-year period (2012–2014) which reflects the lowest line-of-duty loss in more than 50 years. This is despite the increased number of gunfire deaths and surge in ambush attacks seen in 2014. Why is this three-year period so important? A longer period of time is much more instructive than looking at a single year. No one wearing a badge today has ever seen a periodwith a lower level of loss than what we have just seen. We have
made significant progress and it’s important to understand both why this is happening and what we need to do to send even more officers home to
their families at the end of their shift, rather than shipping their body to a mortuary.
A Key Factor
As most of you know, Below 100 (Goal: drive down LODDs to fewer than 100 per year) rolled out at the end of 2010 and the first Below 100 Train-the-Trainer presentation took place in 2011. The initiative hit full-stride going into 2012. I don’t believe that the timing of Below 100 and the dramatic decline in fallen officers during this three-year period is just a coincidence. In other words, it’s working. However, this is not the time to engage in congratulatory platitudes. We must maintain the momentum because there’s still so much to be done. We continue to lose officers in absolutely preventable incidents and we can do more. We must do more.
The Below 100 initiative targets areas that are directly under an officer’s control and advocates a common sense approach to officer safety. This isn’t about statistics. It’s about each and every officer, trainer and supervisor taking individual and collective responsibility for the decisions and actions that contribute to safety. It’s absolutely unacceptable to shirk this duty or to suggest that it’s someone else’s job. It’s time for you to step up—not just for yourself, but for your family and your coworkers.
Make no mistake. There will never be an acceptable LODD. No one knows this more than those who have lost a loved one or coworker. For them, there’s nothing to celebrate. Below 100 recognizes each death as a tragedy, while acknowledging the inherent peril of policing. It is time to challenge ourselves and each other in a constructive way.
Here are four specific areas that every one of you can do, regardless of your rank or position in your agency:
1. Physical health: After vehicles and gunfire, the leading single cause of line-of-duty deaths is heart attacks. Don’t dismiss this as something only relevant to the “old guys.” The reality is that we have lost officers in their 20s, 30s and 40s to heart attacks during the past three years. The fourth tenet of Below 100 is W.I.N.—What’s Important Now? Personal health and physical capability should absolutely be a priority for anyone who’s serious about officer safety. At a minimum, you should know your blood pressure, your body mass index, your cholesterol level and your family history. Now do something about it.
2. Self- and buddy-treatment capabilities are saving lives: Do you have a tourniquet? Can you access it from either side of your body? Not issued? Then buy one and learn how to use it! This is the ultimate example of the Below 100 tenets of W.I.N. and Remember: Complacency Kills. The reality of ambush attacks means officers must rely on themselves as the first method of treatment. Be ready.
3. Courageous conversations: Take the time to engage with officers who push the envelope or take unnecessary chances. Tell them that you care and that their family needs them. Don’t wait, because you may not get a second chance.
4. Model good practices: Wear your vests—both ballistic and reflective. Use your seatbelt and drive at speeds appropriate for both the call and the conditions. These are straightforward, no-cost actions that will make a huge difference in officer safety. Be a part of the cultural change that is sweeping our country. Let’s continue to drive down our losses and remember that the only way we can properly honor the fallen is by training the living.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The preliminary total loss from 2012–2014 is 361, according to our partners at the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP.org). You have to go all the way back to 1958, 1959 and 1960 to find a lower total for a three-year period (352).