The FBI’s National Law Enforcement Safety Initiative
By Charles E. Miller III, Henry F. Hanburger, Michael Sumeracki, and Marcus Young
In December 1952, at approximately 2:30 a.m., a law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle occupied by a lone male for exceeding the speed limit. When the officer approached the vehicle, he was shot twice in the upper chest with a .38-caliber revolver. The officer fell to the pavement, and the vehicle sped away. Several days later, the driver was arrested, convicted of the offense, and sentenced to life in prison.
In December 2002, at approximately 3 a.m., a law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle occupied by a lone male for exceeding the speed limit. When the officer approached the vehicle, he was shot twice in the upper chest with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun. The officer fell to the pavement, and the vehicle sped away. The driver was arrested several hours later, convicted of this offense, and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
In both of these incidents, the officers were shot in the same area of the chest while approaching a motor vehicle. Sadly, the officer in the first incident died from his wounds, but the officer in the second one sustained only minor injuries. What are some of the commonalities and differences between these two felonious attacks? Are there specific, identifiable factors that would explain why one officer died and the other survived? Although the circumstances of the encounters are similar, they occurred 50 years apart. Was the officer in the second incident better equipped or mentally prepared for the encounter than the first? Did their agencies train them differently? If so, did the training the officers received possibly have a significant influence on the outcomes of these shootings?
Mr. Miller, a retired police captain, is the program coordinator of the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
Mr. Hanburger, a retired FBI special agent, serves as an instructor with the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
Mr. Sumeracki, a retired chief of police, serves as an instructor with the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
Upon examining these incidents in greater detail, it becomes clear that the officer who conducted the traffic stop in 2002 had several significant advantages when compared with the officer from 1952. The officer in 2002 was protected from serious injury due to his department-issued body armor. This particular agency mandated that patrol officers wear body armor, strictly enforcing this policy and disciplining officers who failed to comply. In 1952, affordable body armor was not readily available to law enforcement organizations. Other advantages the officer from the 2002 incident enjoyed included better communications, better lighting, and probably better training. When asked his intent at the time of the 2002 attack, the 15-year-old offender stated that because he knew most law enforcement officers wear protective body armor, he was attempting to kill this one by shooting him in the head. Relating why he thought he was not successful, the teenager said, “He wouldn’t give me a good shot. He stood too far back. I had to stretch around to fire. Because of that, my shots went low, and I missed.”1
How did the FBI obtain information about these two incidents? Further, what is the FBI’s interest in the felonious attacks on law enforcement officers that occur at the state or local level? And, finally, what role, if any, does the FBI play in addressing law enforcement safety issues on a national level?
Mr. Young, a 20-year veteran of law enforcement, serves as an instructor with the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
To answer these questions, the authors present the establishment, the role, and the evolution of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) programs. They also discuss approximately 20 years of research conducted by the FBI that focused on incidents where officers were feloniously killed or assaulted in the line of duty and resulted in three special studies published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1992, 1997, and 2006. Based on this research, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division offers free officer safety training to federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. The increasing number of law enforcement departments requesting this training has necessitated the expansion of the LEOKA program into the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Safety Initiative.
THE UCR PROGRAM
Since 1930, the FBI has administered the UCR program at the request of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), assuming the task of collecting, verifying, analyzing, and disseminating crime data on a national level. In 1937, the UCR program began publishing the annual Crime in the United States report and disseminating it to all participating contributors. Today, the program continues as a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of more than 17,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies voluntarily reporting data on crimes brought to their attention. Crime in the United States, now solely available online, is used by law enforcement administrators and managers, criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, researchers, media representatives, and others interested in criminal justice matters.2
The UCR program operates under the “shared management” concept. This means that the general policy concerning the philosophy, concept, and operational principles of the program is based upon the recommendations of the CJIS Division Advisory Policy Board (APB) to the director of the FBI. It also ensures that the concerns of the program’s stakeholders (i.e., law enforcement entities) are considered in making program modifications and additions. Besides the CJIS APB, advisory groups from the IACP, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of State Uniform Crime Reporting Programs foster widespread and responsible use of crime statistics and lend assistance to data contributors when needed. Members of the CJIS Division’s Liaison, Advisory, Training, and Statistics Section (LATSS), along with assistance from personnel of the Strategic Support Section (SSS), handle the actual day-to-day operations of the program.
THE LEOKA PROGRAM
From 1937 through 1971, the UCR program included the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the annual Crime in the United States publication. In 1972, the FBI began collecting detailed data on law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and publishing the information in annual reports. To ensure the comprehensive collection of these statistics, the FBI’s field offices notify the LEOKA program when an officer within their jurisdiction is killed in the line of duty. The program then immediately disseminates this information to all law enforcement agencies via the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Network. An FBI agent provides the law enforcement organization that suffered the tragedy with a copy of the Analysis of Law Enforcement Officers Killed reporting form to collect all relevant data, along with information on the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program for the victim officer’s family.3
Also in 1972, the UCR program created a separate monthly form for law enforcement agencies to report assaults on sworn personnel that occurred in the line of duty. Individual agencies submit the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted form to their state crime reporting program or directly to the FBI. For 10 years, the UCR program published the data in the annual Crime in the United States. In an effort to consolidate publications, however, the program incorporated information on federal, state, and local law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty into its annual renamed publication Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted in 1982.4
In 1997, IACP recommended collecting additional data on officers assaulted with a firearm or knife or other cutting instrument because it appeared that the law enforcement community could glean additional information from officers who survived felonious assaults. Initially, compliance from participating agencies was slow but has gradually improved. Although the program feels that it is capturing the majority of these incidents, it has yet to incorporate the data into the annual publication. However, the information has provided a rich variety of incidents that researchers have examined in several officer safety projects.
In 2004, the LEOKA program coordinator met with members of IACP’s Highway Safety Committee and the Law Enforcement Stops and Safety (LESS) Subcommittee to discuss law enforcement safety issues, specifically the rapid rise in the number of officers dying in accidents. After thoroughly examining and assessing the LEOKA program’s statistical data, these IACP committees requested that the LEOKA program redesign its collection form to capture additional information regarding accidental and felonious deaths and assaults. The committees also offered their resources and expertise in assisting with the proposed project.
To carry this mission forward, the LEOKA program coordinator became a member of the LESS Subcommittee and solicited input from all of the members of the IACP’s Highway Safety Committee and the LESS Subcommittee.5 Next, the LEOKA program formed a redesign team of FBI personnel who consulted with numerous outside entities throughout the redesign process.6
In May 2008, the LEOKA redesign team completed the final drafts of both Analysis of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted forms; one is for officers accidentally killed, and the other is for officers feloniously killed or injured with a firearm, knife, or other cutting instrument during a felonious assault. The team then field tested the new forms with numerous law enforcement agencies to assess any problems they could have understanding and completing them. The team preselected cases and assigned them to the agencies to ensure a healthy mixture of incident types. None of the agencies experienced major problems completing the forms, and all commented positively on their utility. The time needed to complete either the accidental or the felonious form averaged approximately 1 hour. In November 2008, IACP passed a resolution endorsing the implementation of the new forms at its annual conference.7
The importance of this project cannot be overstated. The quantity and quality of the new data captured will improve the CJIS Division’s service to the law enforcement community, and, likewise, the profession will benefit from the additional information. It is anticipated that the annual LEOKA publication will double in size and assist law enforcement managers, trainers, and personnel in the identification of training issues for preventing line-of-duty deaths and serious injuries to law enforcement personnel.
Officer Safety/Awareness Training Requests
Forward written requests for Officer Safety/Awareness training to Section Chief Robert J. Casey, FBI Complex, Module E-3, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306-0150, email@example.com and also provide a copy to Melissa Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org. The letter should contain the law enforcement agency or group, the proposed date of the event, the location, and the anticipated number of law enforcement attendees. The FBI provides the training at no cost but does request that the hosting agency advertise the training so that law enforcement officers from other agencies in the area have the opportunity to participate.
SPECIAL RESEARCH PROJECTS
The LEOKA program’s primary goal involves serving federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Each year, the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted publication presents extensive data provided by slain officers’ employing agencies, including information about the officers and their killers, along with the circumstances that brought them together. Victim officer profiles contain data on age, sex, race, physical attributes, years of service, and other relevant information. Situational descriptions that indicate what particular tasks the officers were performing at the time of their deaths, such as making an arrest, transporting a prisoner, handling a disturbance call, or making a traffic stop, are portrayed. Also addressed are weapons used and type and geographic location of the victim officers’ law enforcement agencies. Information about the offenders includes physical characteristics and criminal histories.
Yet, even these detailed data cannot answer what is likely the most important question. Why did the incident occur? Speculation ranges from discussions of possible procedural mistakes to assessments of the adequacy of law enforcement training and analyses of the personality types of both offenders and officers involved. Many serious questions arise when considering the possible causes for these events. What factors turned a petty thief or a drunk driver into a killer of a law enforcement officer? Why would a person arrested on numerous occasions without exhibiting any violent tendencies suddenly use deadly force against an arresting officer? Did the victim officer perform or omit some type of behavior that may have precipitated the violence? Was there anything that the officer could have done to prevent the fatal attack?
After conducting law enforcement training throughout the nation and repeatedly hearing these questions, UCR instructors formulated a plan in 1989 to study the felonious killings of officers through an interactive and integrative approach. The study would address the psychology of offenders, the behavior of officers, and the circumstances that led to lethal attacks. Clearly, such an integrative study could practically and substantially add to the current base of knowledge on the felonious killings of law enforcement officers. While it would not answer all of the questions or prevent all future deaths, it would examine the complex situations in a differ-ent manner than previously accomplished.8
Killed in the Line of Duty
The study, conducted over a 3-year period, reviewed 51 incidents that resulted in the line-of-duty deaths of 54 law enforcement officers and involved 50 offenders. While the study did not produce all of the answers sought, it provided several important findings regarding the outcome of an in-depth examination of the offenders, victims, and events. First, while no single, absolute offender profile emerged, most killers of law enforcement officers had been diagnosed as having some sort of personality disorder. Next, the behavioral descriptors of victim officers frequently appeared similar, with the officers characterized as generally good-natured and more conservative than their fellow officers in the use of physical force. Finally, the incidents themselves revealed that the killings often were facilitated by some type of procedural miscue (e.g., an improper approach to a vehicle or loss of control of a situation or individual). In short, the researchers determined that these factors combined into a “deadly mix” of an easy-going officer who would use force only as a last resort with an offender of aberrant behavior in an uncontrolled, dangerous situation.
Published in 1992, Killed in the Line of Duty: A Study of Selected Felonious Killings of Law Enforcement Officers contained extensive information on the victims, offenders, and incidents studied. It identified personality types of offenders, provided guidance in assessing how those of a given type will typically interact with authority figures, and offered styles or approaches in questioning or interrogating them by law enforcement. It pointed out specific areas where law enforcement training and procedures may be improved. It provided some signals for law enforcement managers about officers who may be more likely to become a victim in a potentially deadly situation. Probably most important, it did not answer all of the questions. In fact, the study actually raised as many as it answered and identified areas that required more extensive study and thorough evaluation at all levels of law enforcement.
In the Line of Fire
A second study, conducted over a 3-year period, examined 40 cases, which had 52 victim officers and 42 offenders. Unlike the first one, which explored the topic of officers killed in the line of duty, the second study included officers who survived felonious assaults and, thus, could explain their actions or offer reasons why they chose not to act.
Published in 1997, In the Line of Fire: Violence Against Law Enforcement, A Study of Felonious Assaults on Law Enforcement Officers presented findings that proved strikingly similar to those in the first study in terms of the various threats officers faced as they performed their duties. Law enforcement officers continued to become unwitting components of the deadly mix. Both studies found that officers frequently neglected their own safety when performing their duties. When officers received calls for service, as well as when they initiated contacts, their mental and physical reactions were geared toward responding, helping, clearing the call, and returning to service for the next call. By their own admission, they often were thinking about the next call before they cleared the current one. Consequently, they sacrificed their own safety for what they perceived as “the greater good: the safety of the community.” The officers sometimes failed to keep in mind that their own safety must come first so that they remain alive and able to protect the community.
The additional insight gained from the involved officers triggered more questions. How and why do offenders and officers have different perceptions about a situation? The discrepancy proved noteworthy. Two-thirds of the offenders stated that they believed the officer did not know how serious the situation had become just before the assault occurred. Without knowledge that these offenders made this assessment, the officers involved in these same incidents said that they were unaware of the impending assault.
What causes these perceptual differences? Even though clearly life-and-death situations, these events could not have been processed in a more strikingly opposite manner. What was it in the histories, training, and experiences of these officers and offenders that produced such wide discrepancies?
Beginning in 2000, the final study, conducted over a 6-year period, examined 40 cases, which involved 43 offenders and 50 victim officers. The major theme that threaded throughout this study derived from the concept of the deadly mix, discovered in the first study and fully explained in the final installment of the trilogy on law enforcement safety, Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers, published in 2006. The term deadly mix describes an integrative process encompassing all aspects of the officer, the offender, and the circumstances that brought them together at the time of the felonious attack. Conceptually, the deadly mix can provide some insight into why law enforcement assaults and deaths still occur on an unrelenting basis regardless of technological advances, innovative equipment, and proactive policing strategies.
Ideally, contacts between law enforcement officers and offenders never would turn violent, and the number of law enforcement officers feloniously killed or assaulted would diminish to zero. In practice, however, violent encounters between officers and offenders will continue to plague America, sometimes involving the deadly mix that often results in serious injury or death to those charged with safeguarding its citizens. Only when detectives, use-of-force investigators, supervisors, and administrators explore the various components of the deadly mix will a greater understanding of these encounters emerge. To make an objective assessment of each case, it is necessary to carefully and completely examine all aspects of the incident, thereby allowing the facts to surface. Perhaps, a significant part of the answer to why these events occur can be found in understanding the deadly mix as developed and explained throughout these three studies.
“The training you provided me in your seminar on law enforcement street survival helped me recognize the presence of a threat and react appropriately. The danger signs were present. I’m not sure I would have seen them and acted on them as quickly as I did if it hadn’t been for your training.” This statement from an officer aptly describes the motivation for publishing the trilogy on law enforcement safety. If one officer’s life is saved, all of the work, all of the physical and emotional pain that assaulted officers endured during the attacks and in the later retelling of them, and all of the grief borne valiantly by the surviving families and friends of deceased officers will serve a higher purpose and keep one more dedicated member of the law enforcement profession from succumbing to the deadly mix.
Numerous officers who have received the LEOKA Officer Safety/Awareness training have stated that it helped them become more safety conscious in their patrol duties, increasing their alertness to danger signals that offenders display. It also made them more aware that they, as officers, emit signals about their own mental readiness to meet challenges—signals that offenders often are able to read.
The objective of the Officer Safety/Awareness training is to assist law enforcement managers, trainers, and personnel in the identification of training issues for the purpose of preventing the death or serious injury of law enforcement personnel. An instructor presents course content, augmenting lecture and discussion with videotapes of the actual offenders and victim law enforcement personnel studied in the research trilogy. Handout materials consist of information sheets, officer safety pocket guides, and CDs that contain all three studies. The length of the training varies from 2 to 16 hours and is tailored to meet the specific needs of the requesting agency.
Detailed Data Requests
The FBI’s annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) publication is available online and is downloadable at www.fbi.gov. Law enforcement administrators, trainers, and officers, along with members of the academic community, can find this information invaluable. The FBI’s Crime Statistics Management Unit can compile more detailed data to suit specific research needs. Inquiries can be made via telephone at 304-625-3587 or by e-mail to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Given the enhancements in the data collection and the addition of instructors, researchers, and personnel to analyze the collected material, it is expected that the LEOKA annual publication about officer deaths and assaults will increase in size and value. The ultimate hope is that it will prove helpful to law enforcement agencies in providing training and education to prevent and minimize officer assaults and deaths.
Another area of desired research to be conducted by the LEOKA team in the near future is the examination of accidental deaths of officers while on duty. For the first time in program history, the number of officers dying in accidents has exceeded the number of officers feloniously killed for over 10 consecutive years. What factors may have contributed to this increase? Is this rise in accidental deaths preventable? If so, what type of training or policy changes should administrators implement to bring these numbers down? The LEOKA researchers hope to answer these questions in the future.
The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted program will continue working in partnership with agencies across the United States in researching violent encounters while publishing material relevant for the purpose of preventing the deaths of or serious injuries to our nation’s law enforcement personnel. The LEOKA program will continue to evolve in providing cost-effective regional training for local, state, and federal law enforcement, including resources for the professional development of the dedicated personnel protecting and serving society.
In addition, the LEOKA team will use the research conducted in an effort to further expand the answers to questions previously posed and hopefully those not yet conceived.
It will be through the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies across the country and their dedicated personnel that the LEOKA program will continue to gather, disseminate, and analyze data from incidents of law enforcement officers assaulted and killed while performing their duties. With this strong cooperative effort, the knowledge, training, and education of law enforcement personnel will continue and be of benefit to all.
1 Anthony J. Pinizzotto, Edward F. Davis, and Charles E. Miller III, “The Deadly Mix: Officers, Offenders, and the Circumstances That Bring Them Together,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 2007, 1-10.
2 For specific annual editions, access http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm#cius.
3 For information on the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, access http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/psob/psob_main.html. For information on the U.S. Department of Labor, access http://www.dol.gov/.
4 For specific annual editions, access http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm#leoka.
5 The following committee agencies submitted written suggestions and recommendations regarding the redesign of the Analysis of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted form: Alabama Department of Public Safety, California Highway Patrol, Colorado State Patrol, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida Highway Patrol, Missouri Highway Patrol, National Sheriffs’ Association, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, New Hampshire Department of Public Safety, New York Highway Patrol, Pennsylvania State Police, and Washington State Patrol, along with other members of IACP and such advocacy groups as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
6 These included National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, American Society of Criminology, West Virginia University, Bowling Green State University, Rutgers University, and the University of Louisville.
7 All four Regional Working Groups, the Federal Working Group, the UCR Subcommittee, and the CJIS Division Advisory Policy Board have voted to accept the new versions of the forms. Approval from the Office of Budget and Management is being sought.
8 The three studies referred to in this article reflect approximately 20 years of research conducted by Anthony J. Pinizzotto, Edward F. Davis, and Charles E. Miller III. Hard copies or CDs can be obtained from the UCR Program Office, FBI Complex, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26206-0150 or by calling 888-827-6427 or 304-625-4995.