According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, from 2015 to 2016, the number of police officers shot and killed in the United States increased by 44 percent. Retaliatory violence directed at officers has also jumped. This session at the RIMS 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition addressed how the increase of violence against law enforcement affects public entities everywhere.
- Darryl DeSousa, Deputy Police Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department
- Barry Scott, Risk Manager, City of Philadelphia
- Mark Walls, Vice President of Communications & Strategic Analysis, Safety National
In 2017, 34 police officers were shot in the line of duty – 10 of which were killed by gunfire. Ambush-style killings have increased by 167% this year and these type of killings are at a 10-year high. Statistics also show that police officers suffer some kind of assault every four minutes. How do we get here and how do we change it?
Members of law enforcement face several challenges that can have an impact:
1. Basic officer tactics and tactical awareness. This includes habits, training and an awareness mindset.
Solutions: Officers need to take time to make a plan for various scenarios. Some of the most-dangerous calls for service (CFS) include situations like suspicious person, attempted arrest, domestic violence and protests. Action is quicker than reaction. Tactics are habits, so practice is critical. If you think, you can out maneuver.
2. Officer mental health and wellness. Repeated exposure to violence and trauma can affect mental and physical wellness. Work hours and sleep deprivation, combined with the inherent stigma against the profession, can also be extremely taxing.
Solutions: We need to help remove the stigma put upon police. In addition, peer support, time off and the availability of psychological services can significantly help. Our humanity is often our best offense in supporting our workforce. As an industry, we are not responding appropriately to PTSD situations. We need to put less focus on “is this compensable” and more on taking care of these individuals who are experiencing extraordinary situations. It’s important to not only have services available, but also to make the availability of them known to the workforce.
3. Community trust. Community trust can be viewed as the most important item to achieve because, if you trust and care for someone, how can you harm them?
Solutions: We must start with truth, reconciliation, empathy and transparency. The old “zero tolerance” police strategies must be eliminated. This is how we remove the “us and them” mentality. Law and order is easier to maintain with trust. Citizens self police, for the most part, and community trust provides a level of support that can significantly help law enforcement. Finally, who can teach law enforcement about the challenges of a community than the community, itself? The community can be a great ally.
4. Departmental support. Rank and file officers do not feel supported by upper command.
Solutions: Restrictive policies often inhibit proactive enforcement. It’s important to align policies with realistic practices. It’s also important to balance departmental needs with community needs. Officers need to feel that they are supported and, when departments are quick to publicly apologize to communities before knowing the facts of a particular situation, it has a huge impact on morale.