Law Enforcement Officer Safety and Wellness – A Key BJA Priority
By Allie Harokopus, Project Coordinator, Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center
Our nation’s law enforcement officers face unpredictable situations involving cruelty, injury, danger, and risk on a daily basis. Responding to difficult and dangerous people, working long hours and overnight shifts, and other work-related stressors take physical and emotional tolls on officers that can result in obesity, heart attacks, substance abuse, and even suicide. Additionally, law enforcement officers may find themselves at risk of injury while engaging in their duties. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s 2018 End of Year Preliminary Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report, there were 144 law enforcement line-of-duty deaths in the United States in 2018, an increase of 12 percent from 2017. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of causes contributing to these law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.
If left unaddressed, these stressors may continue to cause long-term physical, emotional, and mental consequences. Accordingly, law enforcement safety and wellness is a U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) priority. “Law enforcement officers commit their lives to protecting and serving their communities and their agencies,” said BJA Director Jon Adler in an International Association of Chiefs of Police blog post. “It is our duty to protect and serve them.”
BJA understands the importance of supporting law enforcement safety and wellness by providing officers with the necessary tools and resources needed to help them better address the emotional, mental, and tactical aspects of police work. To address law enforcement safety and wellness through a multifaceted, coordinated approach, BJA and its partners support two key comprehensive and holistic initiatives – the National Officer Safety Initiatives (NOSI) and the Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Initiative – outlined below.
National Officer Safety Initiatives
In support of the President’s Executive Order 13774: Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers, BJA’s NOSI program currently addresses law enforcement safety in three key areas: law enforcement suicide, traffic safety, and a national public awareness and education campaign.
VALOR provides a holistic approach to addressing law enforcement officers’ needs and to building those strong and positive partnerships with the communities they serve through several VALOR Initiative programs. VALOR’s core curriculum focuses on four primary challenges to officer wellness: suicide prevention, vehicle-related injuries and death, assaults against officers, and job-related stress. Through a multifaceted approach that includes delivering no-cost training (e.g., professional education opportunities), conducting research, developing and providing resources, and establishing partnerships that benefit law enforcement officers, VALOR seeks to provide our nation’s law enforcement officers with innovative, useful, and valuable resources.
Law enforcement safety and wellness should concern everyone. Officers who are mentally and physically healthy not only respond better to emergencies and other challenging situations, but also can develop more positive connections with the people they interact with in the line of duty. In the long run, supporting and preparing law enforcement officers with comprehensive health and wellness resources can create safer officers and safer communities.
BJA’s initiatives are continuously evolving to address the various issues, concerns, and trends that law enforcement officers face and integrate the latest research and practices to address all aspects of safety, wellness, and performance. For more information, visit https://www.bja.gov/national-officer-safety-initiatives/index.html.
If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to law enforcement safety and wellness, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov and we can connect you to the appropriate training, assistance, TTA partner, and/or resources.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future TTA Today blog post or in obtaining information related to a particular topic area, please email us at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.