Officer Survival Spotlight
By the Numbers: Turning LEOKA Data into Training Opportunities
If you knew arrest situations were the leading circumstances for felonious killings of police officers in 2012 (25 percent), would you review the way your agency handles arrests? What if you also knew arrest situations constituted the number one circumstances leading to felonious killings for the last 10 years (23 percent)? Would you consider policy changes and possibly modify training practices to incorporate safer, more up-to-date techniques? Finally, what would you do if you learned that the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted (LEOKA) data revealed that arrest situations were the number one circumstances for felonious killings of police officers for the last 20 years (27 percent)? As related to accidental deaths in 2012, would you consider changes to policy or to your vehicle skills curriculum if you knew the leading cause of accidental death for police officers (81 percent) involved motor vehicle crashes and traffic enforcement? If not, you are missing a valuable training opportunity. The intrinsic value of the LEOKA data is captured in a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
The FBI began collecting line-of-duty death statistics in 1937 and has continued every year since. If we study how officers died in the past, we can put preventative measures in place in the present that will minimize risk in the future. Law enforcement must become more proactive in its analysis of training needs and safety policies. Widely known as a risk management expert with more than 33 years of law enforcement experience, Gordon Graham coined the phrase, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” Why wait until an officer is critically injured or killed before we identify deficiencies and minimize high risk factors?
The following is an example of data available on the FBI’s website, http://www.fbi.gov. Users can click on “Stats and Services” in the top banner, choose “Crime Statistics/UCR” from the drop-down menu, scroll to the “Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted” collection, and open the publication for calendar year 2012. The data tables include the current numbers for officer deaths. The same information is available for every year back to 1996. Knowledge is power, and the following statistics arm administrators and trainers with the power to understand the most frequent dangers that officers face.
Mr. McAllister, formerly with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, serves as a training instructor with the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Officer Safety Awareness Training Program.
In 2012, 49 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty: 12 in arrest situations, 9 while investigating suspicious persons/circumstances, 8 in traffic pursuits/stops, 6 in an ambush, 5 in tactical operations, 4 while responding to disturbance calls, 3 while handling or transporting prisoners, 1 while involved in investigative activity, and 1 while handling a person suffering from mental illness. Of these 49 feloniously killed, 44 were shot and killed with firearms, and 33 of these were with handguns. Of these 44 officers shot and killed, 28 were killed within 10 feet of their attackers. Of these 28 officers, 24 were killed within 5 feet of their attackers. Even more startling, of the officers killed by firearms, 73 percent died with their service weapons in their holsters or without firing a single shot.
In 2012 law enforcement agencies reported 52,901 officers assaulted in the line of duty. This number is low because only 64 percent of the agencies providing UCR data to the FBI actually submit assault data for law enforcement officers. However, from the data the FBI received, 10 percent of law enforcement officers were assaulted in the line of duty, and 28 percent of these assaults resulted in injuries.
Of these assaults, 33 percent involved disturbance calls, 15 percent occurred while attempting to arrest, and 14 percent happened while handling or transporting prisoners. Further, 80 percent of the weapons used in the assaults were personal weapons (fists, elbows, knees), 14 percent dangerous weapons, 4 percent firearms, and 2 percent knives or other cutting instruments.
Of the 48 accidental deaths reported in 2012, 39 involved motor vehicle accidents or traffic enforcement (just over 81 percent). Here is the breakdown of those numbers: 23 were involved in motor vehicle accidents, 6 were involved in motorcycle accidents, 8 were struck while directing traffic, 2 were struck while executing traffic stops or road blocks, 3 were killed in aircraft crashes, 3 died in falls, 2 were shot and killed by other officers in cases of mistaken identity, and 1 died in an ATV accident. These statistics show that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental deaths to law enforcement officers, and excessive speed and failure to wear seatbelts played a significant role in these numbers.
Although annual LEOKA data is a reliable source of information regarding issues facing law enforcement officers, the numbers become more valuable and useful to agencies when a comparative analysis over time identifies dangerous trends and patterns. Looking at all of the LEOKA data gathered over a 10- or 20-year period provides law enforcement agencies with a clearer picture as to where they can better direct training needs and available resources. While one year of data could be an anomaly, longitudinal analysis provides statistical validity and reliability.
Leaders should review LEOKA data, study the numbers, and identify dangerous trends and patterns. By proactively addressing these high risk areas, officer safety will increase. The LEOKA Program is all about the numbers—increasing the number of officers going home after every shift and reducing the number of officers added, year after year, to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial.
Mr. McAllister can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.