Brian R. Marvel
This month is an important but somber time for our law enforcement community as we recognize National Police Week (May 9–15) and National Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), paying special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
This year alone, our national law enforcement community has lost 103 officers in the line of duty (these numbers include COVID-related deaths), per the Officer Down Memorial Page. In 2020, we lost 360 officers and the year before, 150. As frontline workers and first responders, COVID-19 has also taken the lives of many of our co-workers in the law enforcement community since the onset of the pandemic, with at least 287 reports of COVID-related officer deaths — making 2020 one of the deadliest years on record for law enforcement. During National Police Week, we celebrate the lives of our fallen officers and honor their service and sacrifice to their community and country. It is also a time to reflect on how to keep our officers safe as they carry out their duties.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), an organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve, has been tracking officer fatalities for decades and working to improve the health and safety of officers. NLEOMF has recorded 1,627 line-of-duty deaths in the past decade — with the top three leading causes of death being firearms-related fatalities, job-related illnesses and automobile crashes. As we honor our fallen heroes, it is important we take every step we can to make our inherently dangerous profession as safe as it possibly can be. With that said, wearing your seatbelt is a simple step you can take to increase your chances of surviving an accident and reducing the number of line-of-duty deaths.
Every day, California’s officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve our communities — that is the oath we’ve sworn to uphold. But we should still do everything we can to protect ourselves and our fellow officers by conducting ourselves in the safest possible manner. I know it has been said a thousand times before, but please wait for backup and do not face dangerous situations alone unless it’s an absolute necessity, like an active shooter or saving a fellow officer. Even seemingly simple practices, such as always wearing
a vest or watching your speed, can be some of the most effective ways to save the lives of both officers and the public.
PORAC, Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), U.S. DOJ, along with NLEOMF and other organizations nationwide, are working to offer programs and resources that effectively improve overall officer wellness and reduce line-of-duty injuries or deaths — like NLEOMF’s Destination Zero, POST’s Officer Wellness training program, U.S. DOJ’s Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (LEMHWA) Program and other various initiatives local departments in California and around the country are spearheading. The law enforcement profession faces new challenges and hardships every day, which is why PORAC continues to advocate at the state and federal levels for more resources, training and new programs to create increased educational opportunities for officers.
PORAC values our members’ health and safety. It is extremely heartbreaking each and every time I see an officer who has lost their life in the service of others, and I know you feel the same way. That is why it is so important to take time this month to truly observe National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day to reflect on those we have lost, and to commit to the actions we can each take as individuals to improve safety on the job. PORAC honors these officers and sends our most sincere gratitude and condolences to their families, not only this month as we recognize law enforcement for their service, but every day as we advocate for the protections and rights of the men and women in law enforcement. We must never forget their sacrifice.
As I write this article, America has administered more than 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. With the increased vaccine distributions we have seen recently, we hope that 2021 will be a better year for our nation and our officers, and we look forward to returning to a pre-COVID normal where we can finally meet, grieve, have discussions and learn from each other in person.
For our members, if you or someone you know has been impacted by a line-of-duty death or near-fatal injury, PORAC’s Fund a Hero in-house fundraising platform is here to help provide financial relief to officers and their families. Fund a Hero assists members in setting up fundraising campaigns that will ensure nearly every cent contributed by donors goes directly to the intended recipient. Fund a Hero allows our members to rest easy knowing that your campaigns, donations and payouts are not being overseen by a faceless non-law-enforcement entity, but by real people at PORAC Headquarters who care about our members. You can learn more about Fund a Hero and register your campaign at PORAC.org/about-fund-a-hero.
Lastly, due to the ongoing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increased security measures in Washington, D.C., NLEOMF will be hosting virtual events during National Police Week from May 9–15, including a Virtual Candlelight Vigil on May 13. We hope our members can join PORAC in honoring fallen officers during this virtual event. In addition, NLEOMF will be hosting in-person events from October 13–17 in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about the virtual and in-person events on NLEOMF’s website at nleomf.org/programs-events/national-police-week. Unfortunately, the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation’s usual ceremonies held in Sacramento have been canceled this year. As always, we thank you for your service and commemorate those who have paid the ultimate price.