Police Week Blue Mass 2013

US Border Patrol's Honor Guard during the 2013 Police Week Blue Mass (WikiMedia).

This is the yearly Police Week, which includes honoring those officers we have lost. Across the country, there are countless events commemorating officers who have died on duty or were murdered because of their chosen profession, their uniform. Some of these events are local, at an agency that has lost an officer. Others are at the state level. Finally, there are the National Police Week memorials in Washington, DC.


October had the fewest deaths – last year.

The two best sources of immediate information for last year’s numbers, the total for calendar year 2023, do not agree. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted data has not yet been released. As a result, I am including information from the Fraternal Order of Police in this article. 

Data

The deaths came from a wide variety of causes (PC – ODMP).

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation, we lost one hundred eighteen (118) officers during the year. The Officer Down Memorial Page puts the total number of deaths at one hundred thirty-seven (137). They broke it down as follows: 

–       49 officers killed by gunfire (36%);

–       23 in automobile crashes; 

–       10 from deliberate vehicular assaults and 

–       another five were struck by a vehicle;

–       19 died from duty-related illnesses, heart attacks, and COVID-19 (which is way from 2020 and 2021);

–       3 each died because of assaults, falls, and motorcycle crashes; 

–       An aircraft accident killed two officers; 

–       One officer each died as the result of drowning, fire, accidental gunfire, being struck by a train, and a still yet unidentified cause of death; 

–       and we lost another 15 from 9/11-related illnesses; 

Some states were fortunate last year and did not make this list; sadly, that has already changed for some states this year.



Fraternal Order of Police

During a February 2024 interview on FoxNews, the FOP National President Joe Grimaldi reported 378 officers were shot – not just shot at – during 2023. That was a 60% increase since 2018, just five years earlier. Another way of looking at it was that one officer was hit by gunfire every twenty-three hours. During the year, 138 officers were shot in 115 separate ambush attacks.  

And if that was not bad enough, FOP’s data shows that since 2018, the number of officers shot every year has increased by 52%.

The 2023 numbers were an improvement over 2022.

The Memorial

Some years back, I visited Washington, DC, and went to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. While I have been to battlefields and other places where great numbers of people had been killed and murdered – KZ Dachau being one – this hit differently. There were people on the panels that I knew, knew of. I trained with some of them or their co-workers and friends. 

The Memorial provides supplies for visitors to rub the engraved name on those panels. I have two of them: one for Deputy Frank Trejo, and a second for Deputy Merritt Deeds. I worked graveyard patrol with Frank for my first few years; Deeds had been murdered when I was growing up.

A suggestion.

There has been a significant decline from the COVID years.

If your agency has been through the murder of a deputy, an officer, a special agent, or a trooper, turn that tragedy into teaching. As a field training officer, I had my trainees research Frank’s murder. I pointed them to the Officer Down Memorial Page and the NLEOMF as well as the archives of the local fish wrapper and bird cage liner, I mean, our fine, unbiased regional newspaper. They were then tasked with writing a one-to-two-page paper on what they found. With that as a foundation, they were walked through the event, the search, the stand-off, and the eventual capture of the murderers. We would talk about the trial and follow-on events, too. 

Then, we would talk about mental conditioning, or mindset, if you will. While I did not hear it until later in my career, the following comment from Dr Alexis Artwohl of the Force Science Research Center should be mandatory reading:



Below 100

If you are involved in training or as a first-line supervisor, please remember the Below100 program. There are five simple steps we can all take to reduce on-duty deaths to under 100. 

–       Wear your seatbelt;

–       Wear your body armor;

–       Watch your speed;

–       What’s Important NOW (at this instant);

–       Remember – Complacency Kills!

Final Thoughts

Comparing the numbers for the year to the same time last year, they are up in too many categories.

During Police Week, while acknowledging that only a few truly want to do harm and cause great bodily injury or death to us, we must remember that it isn’t the risk as much as it is the consequences.  

Support those entities that support you – the individual officer – and your co-workers!

Resources:

FBI LEOKA

Officer Down Memorial Page

Nat’l Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

Below 100

GUNS

HOLSTERS

SOFT SKILLS

OFFICER SURVIVAL

WEAPONS TRAINING

EXPERTS

TAC-MED

KNIVES

STREET TACTICS

LESS LETHAL

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