In the past week, six Georgia Police Officers were shot in the line of duty.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, the 62 law enforcement officers shot and killed in 2016 is a 72% increase from the previous year.
Overall, there have been 137 police officers killed which is a 15% increase.
While there has been a downward trend in line of duty deaths over the last several years, 2016 is a stark reminder of what can happen if we are not vigilant in our attitude, training and resources.
Georgia has taken the brunt of the tragedy in 2016, seeing eight line of duty deaths so far. It’s the fourth-most lethal state for cops with all fatality categories considered behind Texas (19), California (11) and Louisiana (9). We are used to seeing states such as Texas and California, with a large number of officers, with larger line of duty deaths but Georgia and Louisiana are outliers and our concerns should lead to action.
- The days of minimum training must be over. Our police officers need multiple days of training each year designed around keeping them safer. I would start and end with simulated training revolving around force on force. Study after study shows the benefit of this training versus just a classroom environment. If someone reading this thinks they can’t afford it, can you really afford a funeral or a lawsuit? The excuses must be over and the training must begin.
- Politicians and Activists have no business dictating officer procedures when it comes to safety. This was confirmed when I recently watched the video of two Georgia Officers being shot by a coward after a traffic stop. I saw a police officer standing next to the driver and permitting him to keep his hands in his pockets. A backing officer shows up and attempts to change that situation and needless to say, it ended badly. Why did an officer not follow a basic safety protocol (control the hands)? I can’t say but could it be because law enforcement has been bombarded with allegations of racism in recent years and the vast majority of those allegations are outright lies? Has the hatred of the keyboard warriors caused officers to hesitate to do what must be done in order to be safer? It’s hard to know but my gut tells me there are incidents of hesitation and the leaders of our organizations owe it to every man and woman behind the badge to tell them that their safety trumps anything someone not in law enforcement may say. Leaders, let us not assume that your officers know this. Back them, up and tell them to treat citizens with respect, be professional, but when it comes to officer safety, never compromise.
- We still see our police officers working without basic safety equipment. I’m not talking about high end tactical gear but basic resources that every agency should provide. Ballistic vests and helmets are just a few of the items that our officers need. If you don’t have these items, do whatever it takes to get them. Ask agencies around you or contact our friends at Vest For Life.
- Finally, our law enforcement professionals are under some of the most extreme forms of stress and demands than the profession has ever known. We must, above everything else, take care of them not only in regards to officer safety in a tactical sense, but safety in a wellness sense. Our officers need resources to help them emotionally, financially and a hoist of other issues that plague our profession because of the toll that the job takes on those behind the badge. Individuals need to know that there are others that are willing to help them in a confidential manner. Our friends at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just one of those companies. Leaders, if your own agency isn’t providing services then start. If you want to know how to do it without any funds or resources, contact the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and ask for their wellness coordinator. Their model is one of the best in the country and more importantly, they will help you in any way you need.
Law enforcement is the finest profession on the planet. It is full of some of the most noble and honorable men and women that has ever walked among our citizens but our organizations and our communities need to come along side these heroes and help them. One may be honorable but they are still human with all of the frailty that comes with working in a hostile environment. As 2016 comes to an end, may we all learn from the tragedy that has been endured and move forward with a vigor and passion to make our profession safer.
Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates is a current Doctoral Student in Strategic Leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for Law Officer (www.lawofficer.com) and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (www.courageousleader.org), providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.