As we welcome 2011 and embrace the fresh beginning of a new year, I believe it is imperative that we look back and reflect upon the events of the past year.
Last year was an exceptionally violent one for police officers in the United States and around the world. According to data recently released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the number of law enforcement killed in the line of duty in the United States increased by 38 percent in 2010.
This includes dramatic jumps in the number killed by gunfire: up 24 percent; and those killed in traffic crashes: up 43 percent. This is simply unacceptable. As police leaders, we can and must do all that we can to reduce these horrific numbers. We must continually evaluate and develop techniques that will protect our officers and provide them with the equipment and training that will protect them when they are confronted by someone who will not hesitate to injure or kill them. We owe this to those who put their lives on the line every day for the freedoms we cherish.
The IACP has several projects underway to address this critical issue and to assist agencies in enhancing officer safety. The Safeshield Project, the Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police, the Law Enforcement Safety and Stops Subcommittee, and the IACP/Dupont Kevlar Survivor Club are clear indicators of the commitment and focus that IACP brings to this issue. Each of these projects can provide law enforcement executives with valuable research, recommendations, and policy guidance to promote officer safety. I urge you to visit the IACP website to learn more about these programs.
However, two of the most effective measures to protect our officers are also two of the most fundamental: Wearing body armor and using seat belts.
Repeated studies have shown that requiring officers to wear body armor and use seat belts are the most valuable steps that a police leader can take to reduce needless death and mitigate serious injuries. In fact, a recent report by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration found that since 1980, 42 percent of law enforcement officers killed in vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts.
Yet despite this fact, only 60 percent of agencies have mandatory wear policies for body armor, while the issue of seat belt usage is rarely addressed by police executives. This must not continue.
It is our responsibility, as law enforcement leaders, to ensure that our officers are protected. We must do all that we can to give our officers the best chance of survival while they protect our communities.
I urge each of you to ensure that your officers take the fundamental and critical steps of wearing body armor and using seat belts to protect their safety and ensure that they go home at the end of the day.
Mark A. Marshall