National Police Week was established 50 years ago — back in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. This year, National Police Week runs from Sunday, May 13th through Saturday, May 19th.
Police Memorial Day falls on May 15th every year, and this year that’s Tuesday — today.
Police officers across the country will wear black mourning bands across their shields, badges and/or stars. Most citizens probably won’t notice those one-inch wide pieces of elastic but may wonder why the U.S. flags on government buildings will be flown at half staff. Police Memorial Day is one of only two days that all U.S. flags are required by law to be flown at half staff — the other, of course, is Memorial Day.
So far this year, as of this writing, 35 officers have lost their lives — 20 feloniously. The worst month was this past January, when 17 died. To date, 15 have been killed by gunfire, three were stabbed, and two were murdered by vehicular assault. Statistics reveal that the median age of these fallen warriors was 44, and they averaged just over 13-1/2 years on the job.
In 2011, we lost 166 of our brothers and sisters, an increase of almost 14 percent over 2010. If there’s any good news in these numbers it’s that total line of duty deaths for this year are down about 50 percent and KIA’s by gunfire are down about 56 percent.
Many agencies will hold ceremonies on Tuesday. Some will be small private events attended by the slain officers’ family members along with the brother and sister officers of those fallen warriors — others might be larger ceremonies where the public is invited.
But the real meaning of May 15th, for me as a trainer, is more profound.
I wonder how we as police trainers can keep those figures from increasing. Sure, this year looks like it won’t be one of those horrible years where line of duty deaths increase.
We’re barely halfway through 2012, and the summer months (June-August) last year saw 42 line of duty deaths. December 2011 called 19 brothers and sisters to their final Roll Call — the worst month except for March 2011 when we lost 23.
My focus every Police Memorial Day is on what we — as trainers — can do to keep those numbers down.
So here’s my challenge to you bosses, FTOs, and trainers out there:
Instead of watching those line-of-duty deaths climb by 14 percent this year, let’s dedicate ourselves to lowering all police duty fatalities by 14 percent.
Street bosses can emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts at all times, and remind their troops that body armor won’t do them any good if its in their lockers.
Tactics trainers will have to stress the dangers of “Tombstone Courage” and drill into their students’ brains that having and using backup does save lives.
FTOs will need to take corrective action even if they see those minor deficiencies in their recruits’ tactical approach to both high-risk calls and those boring, mundane, and annoying false alarm calls.
We can do it if we all band together — bosses, FTOs, and trainers.
And you know what? Next year, 2013, we’ll strive to do it again!