“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend. Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day – and the fact that too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Departments across the country have mourned the loss of too many dedicated colleagues and friends, but my colleagues and I at the Justice Department are determined to turn back this rising tide. I want to assure the family members and loved ones who have mourned the loss of these heroes that we are responding to this year’s increased violence with renewed vigilance and will do everything within our power – and use every tool at our disposal – to keep our police officers safe.”
The Department of Justice is advancing officer safety with critical new programs including the Officer Safety Initiative, which provides training programs and information-sharing platforms. In addition, in partnership with the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has established the Officer Safety & Wellness Working Group. This forum gains and shares information and insight to help enhance programs, policies and initiatives related to officer safety and wellness.
The department also is standing behind its commitment to police officers with significant strategic investments to numerous officer safety programs, including BJA’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. Since January 2011, 16 officers have been saved due to protective vests purchased in part with funding from this program . In FY 2011, the BJA reimbursed jurisdictions across the United States more than $23 million for 79,684 bullet- and stab-resistant vests.
In addition to this life-saving program, the department also is supporting officer safety through programs such as the Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability ( VALOR) program. VALOR is designed to prevent violence against law enforcement officers and ensure officer resilience and survivability following violent encounters during the course of their duties. VALOR provides training and technical assistance to state, local and tribal law enforcement in a variety of ways, and will conduct and disseminate analysis of violent encounters in various forms, including after-action reviews and lessons learned publications. To date, 538 officers have been trained through the program, and more than 100 incidents where officers were forced to use their firearm have been analyzed. VALOR also includes funding that has been allocated to develop training and technical assistance programs – and resources like the Officer Safety Toolkit, which the department released this year to help officers learn how to anticipate and survive violent encounters. Since its release, approximately 5,000 print and electronic copies of the toolkit have been distributed nationwide.
The Justice Department also has made significant investments to help launch the Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police and to provide additional support for the families of law enforcement officers, especially in times of tragedy. The department also has expanded its Smart Policing Initiative, which fights crime with innovative and evidence-based strategies, granting 16 new awards in FY2011 and bringing the total number of agencies participating to 31.