The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes the LEOKA annual statistics regarding law-enforcement personnel feloniously killed, accidentally killed and assaulted while performing their duties. The objective of the LEOKA program is to assist law-enforcement personnel in the identification of training issues to prevent assaults, reduce injuries and prevent law-enforcement deaths.
In 2008, there were 61,087 assaults upon law enforcement personnel in the U.S. Of those assaults, 80.8% were personal weapon attacks (i.e., hands, feet, fists) and 3.8% involved firearms. LEOKA statistics1 from 1999–2007 revealed a total of 549 victim officers feloniously killed, which 508 were murdered with firearms. The primary weapons of choice by offenders in the felonious killing of officers were handguns (368 of 508).
Imagine yourself in the following scenario: It’s Friday at about 9:40 p.m. You’re an experienced officer wearing a distinctly marked police uniform with a badge on the left side of your chest. After arriving at a business to conduct a theft investigation, you have taken a female into custody for theft and a felony warrant. You’re in the process of placing a seatbelt on the female prisoner who’s seated in the right rear of your patrol car, and a security guard is yelling your name. You walk about two parking stalls away from your marked unit toward a male subject quickly approaching. The suspect is a gang member with an extensive criminal history. You’ve taken the offender’s girlfriend into custody. The offender’s intentions are to ambush and kill you. The suspect is in possession of a concealed handgun and a hunting knife. How would you prepare for this violent encounter?
I was the well-trained officer described in the above scenario. Although I made errors, I ultimately won the fight for my life. I sustained five gunshot wounds—one through my head, three to my front and back torso, and one to my right upper humerus, which shattered. During the struggle, my left hand was physically ripped apart about an inch and a half between the middle and index fingers. The body armor ultimately stopped two of the .38 caliber rounds, minimizing injury enabling me to end the fight. I trained regularly and wore body armor religiously throughout my career.
FBI LEOKA2 research involved 131 cases, 156 officers and 135 offenders. These case studies, combined with analysis of FBI UCR statistics are invaluable tools for trainers, supervisors and managers. The FBI CJIS Division provides a free FBI LEOKA Officer Safety & Survival Program training nationally. LEOKA instruction2 includes analysis of video interviews of offenders who have killed and violently assaulted peace officers. Some commonalities between these criminal offenders were pre-attack assessment, improvised training and the willingness to commit violence against law enforcement.
In the Violent Encounters research3, one offender describes how he “sized up” the officer, quickly forming the opinion he could “take” the officer. This suspect was armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and was determined not to return to custody. Another offender describes himself as being a “lion in the desert” having the predator mentality. This offender studied law enforcement mannerisms, traits and behaviors. He practiced handcuffing escape techniques, with which he escaped from a handcuffed position, armed himself and shot the officer.
As law enforcement trainers we understand the value of skill development through ongoing training of fundamental techniques (e.g. firearms, force options, physical skills) to instill proficiency and confidence. By creating realistic, scenario-based training environments we are conditioning officers for successful outcomes, while preparing them physically, psychologically and emotionally for the unexpected life-threatening encounter. Recognizing pre-attack indicators and characteristics of an armed gunman may prevent an assault from occurring.
Wearing our body armor may reduce injuries related to personal weapon attacks, blunt trauma injuries and firearm assaults, including saving lives. Please continue to inspire those you lead as trainers to wear protective body armor.
Please forward written requests for the Officer Safety & Survival Training to Section Chief Robert J. Casey, FBI Complex, Module E-3, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306-0150. Please e-mail written requests to Rob.Casey@leo.gov and provide a copy to Melissa Blake at Melissa.Blake@leo.gov. The letter should include the law enforcement organization, proposed date, training location and number of law-enforcement participants. The FBI provides training at no cost, but requests host agencies to advertise training regionally.
1. UCR LEOKA Statistics: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm
2. Miller, Charles, E., Hanburger, Henry, Sumeracki, Michael, and Young, Marcus. (2010). The FBI’s National Law Enforcement Safety Initiative. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Jan. 2010, p. 22-31. http://www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/2010/january2010/safety_feature.htm
3. Miller, Charles E., Pinizzotto, Anthony J., and Davis, Edward F. (2006). Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.