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Below 100 Police Officer Safety Training Program

The rate of annual law enforcement officer deaths in the U.S. hasn’t been below 100 since 1943. John Bostain of Command Presence conducted a Below 100 Police Officer Safety Training program in Columbia for SCMIT and SCMIFT drawing more than 139 participants. The session focused creating a culture of officer safety and to address the culture of speed that exists. “The goal of the Below 100 program is to permanently eliminate preventable line of duty deaths and injuries through innovative training and awareness,” according to Bostain. He covered the five core tenants of the Below 100 program. Most officer line-of-duty deaths can be prevented if officers follow the five core tenants:

  • Wear Your Belt.
  • Wear Your Vest.
  • Watch Your Speed.
  • WIN — What’s Important Now?
  • Remember: Complacency Kills!

Fifty-three percent of officers killed in vehicle crashes from 2010 – 2014 were responding to assist another officer. These were good officers who were trying to help a fellow officer but never made it to the scene. For every officer who was killed, it’s reasonable to believe there were many who crashed, who also didn’t arrive on scene. The most important part of responding to an officer needing assistance is getting there.

Why do so many officers fail to arrive? Why do so many officers get killed? “It’s because there is a culture of speed and complacency in the police profession, not just vehicle operations, but how daily tasks are performed. This culture of speed causes officers to be in a hurry, which often times leads to less desirable decision making, like failing to wear a vest, or failing to wear a seat belt. This often ends with tragic consequences” according to Bostain. Officers are rushing to their deaths by placing themselves into situations that lead to serious injury or death. If officers are honest, they can remember times when they wished they had slowed down. “I believe it’s an unintended consequence of well-intentioned training that may start as far back as the basic academy,” said Bostain on why officers feel the need to “get in there.” Officers are unintentionally taught to rush during the basic academy training.

For example, most driving instructors will insist that accuracy is the focus of driver training, but it’s really about getting though the course as quickly as possible. There is no benefit for speeding. The time difference between an officer driving 80 mph and 100 mph over a 10 mile stretch is 90 seconds. Ask the question, “Who are you willing to kill responding to a call?” before speeding. Driving scenarios if done improperly can create negative training scars that last throughout a career. The driving scenarios, many times do not allow officers to role play in scenarios they will face; to call for or wait for backup, not allowing them to pause behind cover to assess, and not allowing time for effective communication with the role players.

As simple as it sounds, the best way to counter the culture of speed is to slow down. Slow down when responding to calls. Slow down when arriving on scene; wait for back up. Slow down and put on a vest at the start of the shift. Slow down and buckle the seat belt.

This isn’t to insinuate that officers should “go slow” but officers need to ask, “what’s important now?” Bostain quoted former coach, John Wooden, who said “be quick; but don’t hurry.” When officers are quick, they are deliberate, purposeful, efficient and fast. In the absence of real exigency, take a few extra seconds or even minutes to assess the situation in order to improve the quality of decisions that are made. Slowing down and going slow are not the same thing.

It’s important that officers go home alive. Learn more about the Below 100 program here. More than 50 officers participated in the train-the-trainer portion of the Below 100 program in September. If you are interested in the Below 100 training, contact Todd Williams, public safety consultant, at 803.354.4764 or twilliams@masc.sc.

Portions of this article were reprinted with permissions from John Bostain of Command Presence.​