Last night’s tragic death of yet another law enforcement officer from a traffic collision is the 3rd in the last week and highlights a troubling epidemic that has been occurring for well over a decade.
North Carolina Deputy Dwayne Hester died in a collision Friday night while responding to a call.
These tragedies bring up questions as to whether law enforcement is doing enough to prevent them. Travis Yates was named the 2008 Law Officer Instructor of the Year and has been instrumental in the Below 100 Initiative, which aims through a series of training events to reduce line of duty deaths to below 100 each year states there is no doubt that more must be done.
“Absolutely our profession must address these tragedies that in many instances do not have to occur” Yates exclaimed.
While he acknowledges that some roadway related deaths will occur despite proper actions by the officer and adequate training, Yates says we are “fooling ourselves” if we think there is nothing we can do.
“I look at the way our officers are dying and it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach. We have officers striking other officers in cars, officers not wearing seat belts and speeds so fast that we are running off the road and killing ourselves. This does not have to happen and it’s just crazy that we continue each year and watch it happen with very little regard.”
Yates cites the Below 100 Initiative and the Officer Down Memorial Page as two organizations that are doing a lot to prevent these tragedies but he questions the motives of departments that don’t train in the area of roadway safety and police organizations that simply turn their head.
“If law enforcement knew of the arrogant attitude I see out there amongst our own….among those that claim to support law enforcement yet do nothing to prevent this tragedy they would be angry.”
When asked why there isn’t an outcry over senseless deaths, Yates doesn’t know the answer.
“I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you why there are organizations that beg for money to honor officers yet those same organizations could care less about the prevention of those deaths. Yes we should honor but what good are we doing if we don’t prevent.”
Dale Stockton, Editor of Law Officer Magazine and developer of Below 100, states “I truly believe in honoring the fallen, but we must empower the living to do their jobs as safely as possible. We all have a responsibility to improve officer safety—both individually and across the profession.”
Yates is clearly burdened by what he is seeing. “I’m tired and I know my words may seem harsh but enough is enough. I realize there will be backlash by what I’m saying. Our profession is programmed to not speak about someone that has given the ultimate sacrifice or analyze what occurred but I don’t understand that. It doesn’t take away from that sacrifice. These men and women are true American Heroes but do we really want to accept tragedy when it doesn’t have to occur? Do we really want to leave children without a parent and a spouse alone because we are too prideful to discuss these issues?”
The death of North Carolina Deputy Hester is the 19th this year due to vehicle collisions. In the last 30 years, 19% of officer vehicle fatalities have involved an ejection and studies reveal that up to 50% of the officers that die in a vehicle were not wearing a seatbelt. Since 1997, roadway related incidents have led line of duty deaths every year with the exception of 2011.