National Police Week: Remembering and Supporting our Public Safety Officers

May 13, 2013

The following post appears courtesy of Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.

During National Police Week, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) proudly honors the brave and dedicated officers who enforce our laws and protect our communities. Our streets and homes are safer because of their service -- and we are acutely aware of the price that public safety officers sometimes must pay. Every single day, our nation’s public safety officers place themselves in harm’s way to protect our neighborhoods.  Sometimes they are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund, on average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty in the United States every 57 hours.  Yet, our officers face those dangers with courage and a devotion to duty. We at the Department of Justice  recognize our solemn duty to support and protect public safety officers as they answer this call.

Through OJP’s Body Armor Safety Initiative, we are working hard to ensure that protective gear, critical to law enforcement safety, is scientifically tested to meet the highest rigorous standards.  Our Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has provided hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests to state, local and tribal officers on the street. Last year, vests were directly attributable to saving the lives of at least 33 law enforcement officers. Twelve of them were wearing protective vests purchased, in part, with funds provided by this program – and in just the first three months of 2013, there have been 11 recorded incidents of deadly assaults on law enforcement officers who survived because of the vests they were wearing.

OJP’s National Institute of Justice – the department’s research and development arm – supports standards and testing to ensure this protective equipment meets the highest industry standards.

OJP’s VALOR Initiative, administered through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, gives public safety officers critical training to identify and prevent potentially deadly encounters and emerging threats. The VALOR Initiative has trained thousands of officers, who continue to make a difference in their communities and neighborhoods.

And when tragedy does strike, we provide support to officers’ families, friends and departments.  The Public Safety Officers Benefit Program (PSOB) provides death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders and public safety officers, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Through our partnerships with organizations such as the Concerns of Police Survivors, the Officer Down Memorial Page, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, we actively reach out nationwide to increase survivors’ awareness of PSOB programs and to help them apply for and receive the benefits they deserve.

OJP is committed to its partnership with state, local, and tribal justice systems, and honored to provide the innovative leadership, critical research, and essential funding to support the men and women who risk their lives for our nation’s safety.