By now most of you are probably familiar with the Below 100 Project and its goal of reducing the number of police officer line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) to less than 100—something that hasn’t happened since the early 1940s. For those of you who aren’t, or haven’t had the chance to delve into it more deeply, the mission revolves around five simple core officer-safety tenets:
- Wear your vest (body armor and high-vis)
- Watch your speed
- Wear your (seat) belt
- WIN – What’s Important Now?
- Remember: Complacency Kills!
Notice I said simple, not easy. Simple simply means “lack of complexity.” Easy, on the other hand, is associated with “lack of effort.” Although these tenets lack complexity, it does take effort to follow them. For instance, the act of buckling a seat belt is not difficult. In fact, even a young child can learn to do so in very short order once they move out of a child-safety seat. However, for an officer who has gotten into the habit of not wearing a seat belt over the course of his/her career, relearning a new habit can definitely take some effort.
Below 100 instructors are often asked about that number: 100. Is there any significance to that particular number? Actually, there isn’t, other than the founders of this program wanted to set the bar at a credible, attainable and realistic goal. With LODDs consistently in the hundreds, Below 100 is giving law enforcement officers across the United States something to set their sights on.
One thing, however, that the number 100 (or ANY OTHER number for that matter) is not about: acceptable losses. And Below 100 as an organization is not about acceptable losses, either. There are no acceptable losses as far as LODDs go. Each and every death is an unacceptable tragedy. We work a dangerous job and unfortunately, LODDs are going to occur. However, what Below 100 recognizes is that many of the LODDs that occur every year are preventable. Those are the deaths that Below 100 particularly addresses, because they involve circumstances that are within an individual officer’s control.
In fact, the vision of Below 100 is to permanently eliminate preventable LODDs. In doing so, we would go a long way toward bringing the number of LODDs to less than 100 annually. The number 100 is simply a goal and should we meet that goal, we can raise the bar in future years to below 90, or 80, or 70. You get the idea. After all, the only “acceptable” number of officer deaths is zero. But those of us involved with Below 100 realize that having no LODDs in a year is likely an unrealistic expectation.
In the end, Below 100 is not about the number. It is about a change in culture—the culture of officer safety and increasing our chances of surviving potentially deadly situations. It’s about having those courageous conversations with other officers when we see them engaging in conduct that endangers not only their lives, but the lives of others—not wearing their vests (body armor and high-visibility), driving too fast and/or not wearing seat belts, becoming complacent and not realizing what really is important. And it’s not only having the courage to have those conversations, but the maturity to accept it when someone else calls us out on unacceptable conduct.