Note: This article was written by SAFETAC Trainer Travis Yates in late 2013 as the 100th officer was killed in the line of duty. It was originally posted at Below 100 and has been edited by the author for SAFETAC. According to Travis Yates, “If you want to know why SAFETAC was formed then you will find it in this article. In summary, SAFETAC is about changing the culture and ultimately saving lives.”
It is December 20th and American Law Enforcement has just suffered their 100th Line of Duty Death in 2013. It is the latest that has occurred since 1944. For 69 years, the profession has not seen a year like 2013.
It may seem odd to call a program Below 100 and then say that it is not about the number. Many are fixated on the obvious number. People say “well you didn’t go below 100” or they say “you think 100 is ok” and a number of other things but the number is not what Below 100 is about.
In April 2010 I sat across a table outside Chicago with several other trainers. Some you have heard of and some you haven’t. They all had and still have one mission in mind: To do whatever it takes to make law enforcement safer.
It has been well documented what I said but I made a statement that if law enforcement officers would just focus on a few things that we would get line of duty deaths to below 100 a year. Dale Stockton and Law Officer Magazine took that statement and launched what we now call Below 100 but I didn’t just make up that number.
During my career I had watched as we lost, on average, 165 officers per year. I noticed that many of them were being killed in circumstances that did not have to occur. No one takes the job to die without a seatbelt, without a vest, or in a single car crash. As Stockton often says: “It’s about the low hanging fruit.” I did the math. Eliminate those issues, I thought, and we were at least below 100. I believed it then and I believe today.
Below 100 is about a new normal and the program was born out of a normal that was not acceptable. We averaged over 240 deaths a year in the 1970’s and we did not accept it. We averaged over 184 in the 1980’s and we didn’t accept it and for the last two decades we had remained stagnant with around 165. We stopped seeing our LODD going down. The trend had stopped and it was time to find a new normal.
I’m not sure where that normal lies but I believe what we have seen the last two years is no coincidence. I’m not sure whether the new normal is 115, 101 or 90 but I know it’s much lower than what we have seen for two decades. We have only touched a fraction of America’s heroes with the Below 100 Message and we aren’t stopping anytime soon.
On this day, December 20, 2013, I ask you to join our efforts. Ask us here at SAFETAC how you can bring vital training to you.
Note: As of March 1, 2014, our friends at ODMP have listed 105 line of duty deaths in American Law Enforcement in 2013. That is the lowest total since 1944 where 100 were killed.