The President and Police Officer Deaths
To police officers and others in the system, it means that their work is worthy of respect.
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post Master’s degree-Johns Hopkins University.
Nationally, the number of police officers killed by gunfire this year is up 63%, with 62 officers killed.
A total of 1,439 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 61 hours or 144 per year.
Since the first recorded police death in 1791, there have been over 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
There have been 51,548 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2015, resulting in 14,453 injuries.
The deadliest day in law enforcement history was September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed while responding to the terrorist attacks on America.
If you write about crime and police issues, you have an opportunity to read the comments of cops and others in the system on Facebook and a variety of additional social media sites. It’s clear that many in law enforcement view President Obama’s Justice Department as being less than friendly.
It’s not my desire to reopen old wounds or to create a conversation as to the appropriateness of current DOJ operations. Opinions will depend on whether President Obama’s DOJ was a knight in shining armor, or something less.
With President-elect Trump’s administration weeks away from taking power, and the likelihood of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III soon taking the reigns as Attorney General, it may be time to patch relations with cops and others within the system.
Here’s a suggestion, create the President’s Office of Peace Officer Service.
There are endless photos on social media showing President Obama at a podium addressing causes that created officer disenchantment with a concurrent photo of an empty lectern after a police officer death. The message was that President Obama did not care about cops.
I voted twice for President Obama and I have great respect for the man, but that doesn’t have much meaning for some in law enforcement. Many felt disrespected by the President.
Maybe a President’s Office of Peace Officer Service will be the meaningful gesture that many cops are looking for. It would provide for direct representation of the President through the Justice Department for police officer deaths and those seriously injured. It would also apply to correctional officers and parole and probation agents.
Look, a police officer dies every sixty-one hours. The death of an officer takes on profound implications that are appropriately handled by local and state authorities. But having someone representing the President of the United States contact survivors soon afterward with a personal message from the President would be a moving experience. That same person would act as a liaison to the President keeping him updated as to the status of the widow and family. He or she would be present at the funeral and offer remarks directly from the President.
Existing Department of Justice and State Efforts
Through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance; local, state, and federal public safety agencies and national organizations offer the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Programs to provide death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
The Office reviews the nearly 900 claims submitted each year on behalf of America’s fallen and disabled public safety personnel.
The amount of the PSOB benefit is $343,589.00 for eligible deaths and disabilities occurring on or after October 1, 2016.
There are additional financial benefits offered through state governments, see Concerns of Police Survivors.
So Why the Need for Presidential Involvement?
As stated, there are existing federal and state bureaucracies willing and able to provide financial assistance. State and local authorities handle the arrangements. Additional national and state/local organizations handle everything else. As someone who has participated in the process, I can attest that most needs are taken care of.
But the heart and soul of American crime control efforts fall squarely on the shoulders of police officers. They have taken a public relations beating over the last two years. The stories of police departments who are finding it difficult to impossible to recruit police officers are many. There are an equal number of articles addressing officer efforts to leave law enforcement. Police officers are less aggressive and crime rates are soring in some American cities.
You may feel justified that cops are being held accountable for improper actions, but no cops or less aggressive cops has public safety implications for all of us. The thought that the President of the United States has their backs when morale is at its lowest is more than a symbolic gesture.
Professionals need the encouragement and guidance of the public to do their best. This philosophy especially applies to the darkest hours of police life after the death or serious injury of a fellow law enforcement officer.
The President’s liaison is there to offer the thoughts of the executive, and to make sure things go smoothly for the officer’s family. They can cut through the bureaucratic red tape and make sure things are done properly. They are also there to handle issues that come up after the officer is laid to rest.
Yes, it symbolic, but it’s powerfully so. The President has their personal representative there to grieve, speak, solve problems, and to provide the full weight of the executive branch.
Much like the Arlington Ladies, and others who support officer families in need, much of this work can be done by trained volunteers.
To the widow and family, it means that the entire country is with them. To police officers, it means that their possible future sacrifice is worthy of respect. To do the job correctly, policing means risks that few of us would be willing to take. To take those risks, they have to know that the public is behind them.
To the ever-changing world of policing, it means honor; it’s respect that will change policing for the better.
It’s a small step that will have major ramifications for everyone, including those critical of current policing practices.
Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net
My book: “Amazon Hot New Release”- “A Must Have Book,” Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization available at Amazon