If you read my column on a regular basis, you know that I am a strong advocate of the Below 100 Initiative and any other program that looks at reducing officer line of duty deaths. By mid- 2012, the total line-of-duty deaths were down about 50 percent and more than a few of us thought that perhaps the year would see a mind boggling drop in officer deaths.
Unfortunately, as the year went on, the number of officers killed continued to rise at a steady pace. As reported on the Officer Down Memorial Page, there were 126 law enforcement line-of-duty deaths in 2012.
That is a substantial drop from 2011 with 174 deaths and 2010 with 173. It’s even better than the record low of 2009 with 139 officers killed in the line of duty. But it’s not good enough.
Every trainer who encourages their officers to be smart, tactical, and safe deserves a thank you because you played a part in this reduction. For every supervisor who holds their officers to a high standard of officer safety when responding to calls, you deserve a massive pat on the back because you are on the street, hopefully leading by example.
To every officer who made a daily commitment in 2012 to make themselves safer by watching the speed of their squad car, wearing their vest, putting on their seat belts, and being cautious not to let complacency set in by taking the effort to stay in shape and eat healthy, I put up a high five in cyberspace.
You are the one who lowered the numbers.
Looking Ahead to 2013
It’s a great feat that allows us to usher in 2013 with a stronger commitment and dedication to reduce the number of officers killed in the line of duty.
With 2013 under way, remember that more police officers die at their own hand than are killed by firearms every year.
I would like the battle cry in 2013 to be the quote from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, “I will not give up my life without one hell of a fight, not even by my own hand.”
If you need help, seek it out. If you see an officer in need, offer a hand.
Suicide is not the only way of dying by your own hand. Remember that you are dying at your own hand when you don’t buckle up. You’re dying by your own hand by not donning your vest, by driving too fast for the conditions and beyond the abilities of your vehicle and yourself, by letting complacency slip into your routine, and by not getting enough sleep or exercise.
As a full-time trainer, what I strive for on a daily basis is to teach the skills and knowledge to keep young men and women safe and alive in a dangerous job. It isn’t just my job, it’s my passion and my purpose.
At every graduation of the law enforcement students that I teach, I always wonder, “Which one?”
Which ones will become successful police officers? Which ones will encounter problems along the way? Which ones will be injured in the line of duty? Which ones will be killed in the line of duty?
I will remember 2012 for our successful reduction in line-of-duty deaths.
Unfortunately, one of those line-of-duty deaths was one of my former students, Officer Thomas Decker of the Cold Spring Police Department in Minnesota. Tom is only the second student I have had killed in the line of duty in the 18 years that I have been teaching full time. Fortunately, I have had more students win gunfights than lose them — in fact, both these officers were ambushed.
As a writer fortunate enough to write for PoliceOne, I ask the same question about the thousands of officers around the world who read this website, “Which one?”
Your answer needs to be “Not me.”
It needs to be “Not today.”
It should be “I will not give up my life without one hell of a fight, not even at my own hand.”
Stand strong in your personal conviction to triumph every day.
Begin 2013 with a stronger plan, in better shape, ready, willing and able to put up “one hell of a fight” by doing all the things that will help bring you home safe.