On Aug. 3, LEMIT will host Below 100, a nationwide movement to raise awareness about the most common fatal hazards facing police. The program provides innovative training with a goal of reducing deaths in the line of duty for the nation’s law enforcement officers to under 100 per year, a number not seen since 1943. The five basic tenets of the program are:
- Wear your seatbelt
- Wear your vest
- Watch your speed
- What's Important Now (WIN)?
- Remember Complacency Kills!
“These five actionable items will change police culture and save lives,” said James Senegal, Director of Professional Development at LEMIT. “It’s about each and every officer, trainer and supervisor taking individual and collective responsibility for the decisions and actions that contribute to safety.”
While many officers issue tickets to motorists who fail to wear seatbelts, police also need to use these safety devices. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42 percent of officers killed in motor vehicle collisions over the last 30 years were not using safety belts. Officers are more likely to be killed responding to a non-critical event than actually being on the scene of a call for police service. While many officers believe that seat belts are tactically unsafe, there are proven techniques to counter this myth that can be offered as practical exercises for quick release of safety belts at the scene or just prior to arriving on scene. Although there has been a rise in ambushes on police officers, officers must realize they are many times more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash than they are a felonious assault. “No matter what the vehicle codes says, you’re not exempt from the laws of physics,” Senegal said.
In recently years, there has been a spike in the number of officers who have been killed by gunfire, with an increase of 70 percent between 2008-2011. One-quarter of police department do not require personnel to wear bulletproof vests, and even in departments where it is mandated, administration often does not hold officers accountable if they fail to wear protective armor. Wearing a vest triples the likelihood that an officer will survive a shot to the torso.
Many law enforcement officers are dying in accidents, so it is important to watch your speed and to slow down. According to the National Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 42 percent of fatal law enforcement crashes involved a single vehicle that strikes a fixed object off the roadway. Excessive speed plays a role in half of deadly accidents involving officers. “We want to get there as quickly as we can, but step one is to get there safely. Slow down,” Senegal said.
WIN focuses on living in the moment, evaluating and prioritizing what’s going when an officer is on duty. It includes being in the proper mindset to go to work, paying attention to surroundings, planning ahead, and focusing entirely on the task at hand. Be prepared for trouble by focusing on what’s important now.
Complacency is feeling security while not aware of potential dangers. The law enforcement professions require high levels of motivation and awareness. Don’t take shortcuts in doing the job, using good tactics, or protecting personal safety. There are many instances in where complacency can kill with such simple actions as leaving keys in ignition of a squad car, forgetting to call in a traffic stop before approaching the vehicle, or failing to seek assistance for a building search. It is important to remind yourself daily to operate safely and effectively. “Complacency kills because it leaves us unaware of potential dangers,” Senegal said.
LEMIT will offer a day-long class to train officers and supervisors to be aware of these potential dangers on the job. For more information, contact Charlotte Harding at (936) 294-3482 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.