How we can get 'Below 100' LODDs in 2016

Although the end of 2015 is still a couple of weeks away, more than 100 officers have lost their lives in the line-of-duty this year — that is insanity

As we close in on the end of 2015, we have much for which to be thankful. However, there are family members, friends, and colleagues across North America who have lost an officer in the line of duty in 2015; they aren’t feeling as blessed. The thought of experiencing this holiday season without their officer — who was also a spouse, significant other, parent, son or daughter, sibling and friend — is a solemn reminder of the sacrifice made at the altar of safer communities.

Definition of Insanity
Each year since 1943, our profession has experienced more than 100 line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), leaving many families without the officer they had known and loved. Although the end of 2015 is still a couple of weeks away, more than 100 officers have already lost their lives this year.

And, every single year, the two top causes of line-of-duty deaths remain the same: motor vehicle related accidents and felonious gunfire.

Every. Single. Year.

Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This is insanity, and it’s time to say “enough is enough!”

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 119 officers have lost their lives in 2015 thus far. Compared to this same time last year, the overall number of LODDs is down five percent. Gunfire-related deaths are down 16 percent, but automobile-related deaths are up two percent. Although the statistics appear to be improving, don’t let those numbers fool you or lull you into complacency, because 2015 has still been a deadly year; there are 119 families whose lives have been turned upside-down and forever changed.

With this in mind, the Below 100 mission of eliminating preventable line-of-duty deaths and bringing the total number of LODDs to less than 100 per year continues to be a priority. The five core Below 100 officer-safety tenets are still as relevant as they’ve ever been and it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part. Those tenets are:

  • Wear Your Belt
  • Wear Your Vest
  • Watch Your Speed
  • WIN — “What’s Important Now?”
  • Remember: Complacency Kills!

Moving into 2016
If saving your own life isn’t motivation enough to pledge adherence to these tenets, consider those who are left behind — the stakeholders in our lives that rely on us to not only do our jobs correctly, but to come home safely at the end of each and every shift. Each and every LODD has a significant impact on the family, friends, colleagues, agencies, and communities of those we have lost. But losing a loved one is not the only sting, as pointed out recently in USA Today.

When an officer loses their life in the line of duty their family is eligible to receive a death benefit through the federal government’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Programs, along with any other life insurance policies the officer may have had. However, as pointed out in USA Today, many families have experienced long delays in benefits payments. In some cases, payments have been denied because the officer was considered to have contributed significantly to his or her own death.

Unfortunately, we lose colleagues every year in deaths that are preventable — deaths that were at least some part attributable to the victim officer’s actions. It’s bad enough to lose a loved one, but even worse when a family is left behind to shoulder the additional burden of a significant and unexpected financial hit. When we walk out the door to go to work, we are not only responsible for our own well-being, but also for those left at home. When we look out for ourselves properly, we also do so for those we love.

No one is perfect and any of us who have been on the job for any length of time have at one time or another conducted ourselves in a way that could have resulted in our untimely death: driving too fast, not wearing our seat belts or vests, allowing ourselves to become complacent, or becoming distracted and not focusing on the now. This is why the five Below 100 tenets were created — to remind us that intentional or not, these behaviors are what get us killed.

Please keep the five Below 100 officer-safety tenets in mind as we finish 2015 and move into 2016. With this New Year comes a new opportunity to reduce the number of line-of-duty deaths to less than 100 for the first time since 1943.

Please do your part. Without the individual effort of every one of us, we will continue to miss the mark. So in 2016, please resolve to slow down, wear your vest, wear your belt, think ‘WIN’ and remember that complacency kills. 

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