WASHINGTON – In the wake of an increase in law enforcement officer fatalities, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a law enforcement officer safety initiative today, directing every U.S. Attorney to meet with federal, state and local law enforcement officials in their districts to ensure the department’s resources are made available to help stem officer deaths. In addition, Attorney General Holder convened a meeting of law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C., to solicit input for further action to improve officer safety.
“Our law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to ensure the safety and security of the American people in cities and communities across the country, and we need to do everything we can to protect them,” Attorney General Holder said.
After a two-year decline in law enforcement fatalities, 2010 was one of the deadliest years on record for law enforcement in nearly two decades. Since the beginning of this year, 27 law enforcement officers around the country were killed either by firearms or felonious assaults, including Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller in West Virginia, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry in Missouri and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico. This is an increase of more than 13 % in fatalities over 2010, when 20 officers were killed by firearms or felonious assault at this same point in time.
In his memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Holder laid out several steps for them to take immediately:
Ask local prosecutors to identify the “worst of the worst” – offenders with criminal histories who cycle in and out of local jails and state prisons – and discuss whether any of these repeat offenders may be prosecuted under federal law for offenses that make the offender eligible for a stiffer sentence.
Ensure that our state and local law enforcement partners are fully informed about the resources that the department makes available to help protect officers. The department has developed a number of programs to help our state and local law enforcement partners protect their officers, including:
VALOR – Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability – the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s national training initiative to improve the safety of our officers. As part of the VALOR Initiative, a new officer safety website has been established on the secure servers of the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS). This site has been designed to serve as a secure “one stop shop” for law enforcement to access all types of officer safety-related information, including awareness materials, videos, information on armed and dangerous subjects, information on concealment methods and a training calendar.
RISSafe Officer Safety Event Deconfliction System, which the Bureau of Justice Assistance established to share information on planned law enforcement events – such as raids, controlled buy operations, surveillance and warrant service actions – to identify and alert affected agencies and officers of potential conflicts on a 24/7 basis.
Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP), which provides reimbursement for law enforcement agencies that purchased vests that meet program criteria. Since 1999, more than 13,000 jurisdictions have participated in the BVP Program, with $277 million in federal funds committed to support the purchase of an estimated 800,000 vests. This year alone vests purchased using BVP funds have saved the lives of six law enforcement officers.
A new Bureau of Justice Assistance law enforcement officer safety “toolkit,” which will be developed in the next 60 days, that can be used by federal, state and local law enforcement leaders to learn more about the resources that have been made available to promote officer safety, including training, deconfliction services, funding and other information resources.
Ensure that all federal task forces are making effective use of deconfliction systems . In addition to the case deconfliction that federal task forces use, the Attorney General directed all federally-supported task forces to utilize event deconfliction services provided by the department through RISS.
The attorney general's memo is available at: www.justice.gov/ag/AG_Officer_Initiative_3-22-11.pdf.