The following post appears courtesy of Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week, as we honor those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we are reminded that last year was one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in recent memory. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 177 officers died in the line of duty. For the first time ever, firearms were the leading cause of death, outpacing traffic-related deaths. In the face of these troubling statistics, the Department of Justice is working vigorously to enhance tools, resources, and services available to the field in an effort to improve officer health and safety.
As an example, the Attorney General's VALOR Initiative – Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability – administered by the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP's) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), provides critical training to help officers identify and prevent potentially deadly encounters, or survive them when not preventable. VALOR also offers a variety of resources to law enforcement, including technical assistance and Web resources on emerging threats. More than 3,600 law enforcement professionals have received VALOR training in twenty sessions across the country.
Department funding also helps state, local and tribal jurisdictions procure protective body armor for their sworn law enforcement officers. Last year, the lives of at least 29 law enforcement and corrections officers were saved by bullet- and stab-resistant vests. Seventeen were wearing protective vests purchased, in part, with funds provided through BJA's Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Program. In 2011, the BVP program awarded more than $24 million to nearly 5,000 jurisdictions across the U.S. to be used toward the purchase of more than 188,000 protective vests. OJP's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – the Department's research and development arm – supports standards and testing to help ensure protective equipment meets the highest industry standards.
If tragedy does strike, we provide support to officers' families, friends and departments. The Office of Justice Program's (OJP) Public Safety Officers Benefit Program (PSOB) provides death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders and public safety officers, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty. As a reflection of the alarming increase in officer fatalities, 2011 marked the second highest year for new death cases since the PSOB law was enacted in 1976 - second to the cases filed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We are striving to better serve survivors. We are strengthening partnerships with organizations such as the Concerns of Police Survivors, the Officer Down Memorial Page, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to help us conduct proactive outreach nationwide to increase awareness of PSOB programs and provide technical assistance on filing thorough claims so grieving families and catastrophically injured officers receive the benefits they so greatly deserve. We are also taking a hard look at the PSOB claims administration process in an effort to improve timeliness and transparency, and to ensure officers and their families receive the assistance due to them under the law.
During National Police Week and the weeks that follow, we are committed to supporting all those who are dedicated to protecting our nation's citizens, their families and their communities.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Justice Programs