Thus far, 2020 has produced indisputable evidence of the perils facing law enforcement in the United States and around the world. A global pandemic has taken more than 200,000 lives in the United States including more than 200 deaths of those serving in law enforcement and corrections services.  Adding to that toll are stressors created by natural disasters, peaceful protests, civil unrest, riots, and ambush attacks on officers which, of late, occur on a daily basis. The pressures on law enforcement agencies, and the remarkable men and women who lead them have never been greater, and the list of those leaving their agencies, not of their own volition or timing, continues to grow. As a member of this small group of stalwart leaders, I wonder, when was the last time someone asked, “How you are doing? Chief, who has your back?”
From a physical, emotional, and cognitive perspective, this is much more than a rhetorical question. At a time when so much is expected of law enforcement leadership—from the community, your agency, elected officials, and the media—taking care of yourself is likely to be very low on your priority list. With so many demands for your time and attention, what does your self-care even look like? While you may be able to recognize the impacts of anxiety and distress in others, can you recognize when the same stressors have pulled you off balance? And are you willing to take the necessary steps to restore equilibrium and invest in your physical, mental, and emotional health?
September 25, 2020—The National Police Foundation is pleased to launch the National First Responder COVID-19 Grant Relief Program. With funding support from private sector partners, including The Starbucks Foundation and the Motorola Solutions Foundation, this program has allowed first responders and survivors of first responders an opportunity to request a grant to reimburse select COVID-19 related expenses, such as mental health and wellness costs, unanticipated dependent care, disinfecting services, and similar costs. Currently, these microgrants are being awarded in an amount up to $1,000 per individual/family and are being distributed directly to the recipients.
“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to design and administer this program and it is one that we are confident will make a difference for many highly impacted first responders and their families,” said Jim Burch, President of the National Police Foundation. “Together, with the generous contributions from The Starbucks Foundation and the Motorola Solutions Foundation, it is our turn to protect the protectors and to help ease some of the financial burdens incurred by many during these challenging times.”
Applications are being reviewed by the National Police Foundation, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) 9-1-1 Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE).
Currently, the program is cycling through its second phase of awarding recipients. To date, the NPF has received more than 465 applications requesting more than $360,000 in grant funding from all over the country with applicants from diverse backgrounds including, but not limited to, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, public safety communicators, and more. Applicants have shown a tremendous need for dependent or childcare, decontamination and cleaning expenses, mental health services, and other individual-or family-specific needs.
While this program is generously supported by The Starbucks Foundation and the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the National Police Foundation is looking for additional funders so that we can continue helping our heroes who are fighting for us on the frontlines.
In March 2020, the NPF launched a real-time COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard to collect data and monitor workforce impacts, including the number of officers unable to work/placed in off-duty status due to possible or confirmed exposure, the number of officers that have been tested and diagnosed, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. The NPF has revised the dashboard to expand on key measures to better track the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and related operational challenges that agencies are facing.
The NPF, IACP, and other CRI-TAC partners encourage law enforcement agencies to submit their data here: https://www.policefoundation.org/covid-19/. Data collected through the COVID-19 Law Enforcement Impact Dashboard will assist the field with understanding the scope and impact of COVID-19, as well as informing CRI-TAC tools and resources for the field.
The late New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra is perhaps remembered more for his malapropistic quotes than what he achieved on the field. The irony about “yogi-isms” is that his words can actually be quite profound. One such statement, “In baseball, you don’t know nothing” likely speaks to the unpredictability of the game. It could, however, be read as an indictment of sorts. Yogi played during baseball’s golden age, long before the sports analytics revolution, when the game was guided more by tradition and conjecture than objective knowledge. The same critique could very well be made against our own vocation- “In policing, you don’t know nothing.”
How do we know what we know? The classic answer that cops use on the witness stand is “training and experience”. As much as training and experience can help officers on the street, we may overvalue these characteristics when it comes to running police organizations. Most police training is not evidence-based and years of experience is a poor proxy for occupational knowledge. Policing needs to look deeper.
Like modern baseball, the private sector of the 21st century runs on data. It is challenging to find a major corporation that does not track consumer behavior, measure employee sentiment, or solicit customer feedback. It is true that policing has made great strides toward becoming data driven in regards to crime. The Compstat revolution of the late 20th century along with the advent of crime analysis transformed police operations, particularly in large cities. As good as law enforcement is at tracking crime, blind spots remain when it comes to understanding community concerns and the needs of our own officers.
The survey is part of the BJA Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Initiative. BJA created the VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Initiative to improve officer safety training resources and opportunities available to the law enforcement community in the United States. The goal of the Initiative is to increase officer safety and resilience and strengthen officer wellness. Since the creation of the Initiative, more than 123,000 law enforcement personnel have received some form of VALOR-related training. A critical piece of the VALOR Initiative is to understand the future officer safety training needs.
For more information about the VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Initiative, please visit: https://bja.ojp.gov/program/valor/overview
The COPS Office School Safety Working Group, which is composed of representatives from eight national law enforcement organizations, has identified 10 essential actions that can be taken by schools, school districts, and law enforcement agencies to improve school safety.
Frank Straub, Ph.D., Director of the National Police Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies, had the privilege of serving on the School Safety Working Group.
A copy of the report can be found at: http://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-W0891
The virtual event was attended by a range of law enforcement officers, community leaders, and civil rights organizations from across the country.
The panel was moderated by Karen Amendola, Ph.D., Psychologist and Chief Behavioral Scientist at the National Police Foundation. Panelists included: Chief Greg Mullen (formerly of Charleston, SC, Police Department) of Clemson University (SC), Chief Danny Whiteley of Poplar Bluff (MO), Reverend Dr. Donald Morton of the Complexities of Color Coalition in Wilmington (DE), and Bishop Mark Tolbert, Vice President of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.
To view a recording of the panel, please visit: https://bit.ly/33k6rGF