VALOR: Officer Safety & Wellness Research, Training, and Evaluation

The goal of the VALOR Officer Safety & Wellness pilot research project is to assess the effectiveness of VALOR training and technical assistance in improving officer safety and wellness in three pilot sites.

Project Overview

NPF serves as the National Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Officer Safety and Wellness pilot project. In this capacity, NPF is providing project management, coordination, data collection, research and evaluation, and other support to the Arlington (Texas), Alexandria (Virginia), and Tampa (Florida) Police Departments. These three agencies were selected in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to serve as the pilot sites. Project goals are to facilitate the delivery of comprehensive officer safety training and technical assistance (TTA) to the three departments and to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of those resources in improving officer safety and wellness. In addition to the pilot site projects, NPF was also charged with developing and administering a national survey to examine officer safety and wellness training and resource needs of law enforcement agencies across the U.S. The results of the survey were released in August of 2020.

The current environment in which officers are policing has been described as the perfect storm of stressors. In light of that, as part of surge work commissioned by BJA through the VALOR program, NPF is developing a multi-media guidebook for OSW, which law enforcement agencies can employ on ways to protect both the physical and mental wellness of their officers, especially those working on the frontlines of mass demonstrations, protests, and First Amendment Assemblies. The guidebook will address the following issues: trauma, stress, managing stress, selfcare techniques, nutrition, sleep, alcohol abuse, and organizational responses. This publication will be released by summer 2021.

NPF is developing an officer safety and wellness program implementation guide for law enforcement administrators and trainers that will: 1) discuss the potential challenges and considerations related to delivery format and available training resources; 2) provide guidance on the selection and/or development of future officer safety and wellness training; and, 3) provide instruction on how to evaluate the effectiveness of adopted training programs, to include practical guidance and examples about methodological rigor, data collection, and potential challenges. The development of this guide will be informed by the VALOR research conducted to date; a review of what is known about officer safety, officer wellness and resiliency, de-escalation, and law enforcement contacts with the mentally ill; and, a review of existing officer safety and wellness programs. These final publications will be released by September 30, 2021.

Methodology

For part one of this project, in late 2017, NPF in collaboration with BJA, developed and administered a national survey to a stratified random sample of 1,514 state and local law enforcement agencies, of which, 652 agencies responded. The goal of this survey was to examine agencies’ officer safety and wellness training and resource needs. Four general questions were examined to obtain a better understanding of the landscape of law enforcement training:

1) What are the relative impacts of different officer safety threats facing officers?

2) What types of officer safety and related training are agencies providing officers?

3) What types of officer safety and related training do agencies view as a critical need in the near future?

4) What do agencies currently view as constraints to providing officer safety and related training to their officers?

In order to achieve the goals for the second part of this project, NPF is coordinating the implementation of a comprehensive officer safety and wellness program (VALOR) with the three local law enforcement agencies, overseeing training delivery by the VALOR TTA partners, facilitating an impact evaluation of the program at each site, and sharing findings. Additionally, NPF is providing each pilot agency with an action plan for officer safety and wellness improvements, based on agency needs and the findings of the site evaluation, and arranging the delivery of TTA resources needed as part of each agency’s action plan.

Results

Key findings from the National Survey include:

  • As it relates to officer safety threats, for agencies that reported a serious injury or fatality in the last three years, the most commonly reported events in which serious injury or death to an officer occurred were assaults (excluding gunshot wound or edged weapon) and motor vehicle collisions. However, executives ranked assaults fourth on the scale of perceived risks, labeling it only a moderate risk. Conversely, perceived risk for motor vehicle collisions (ranked first) was more closely aligned with actual risk (ranked second).
  • Although motor vehicle collisions were reported as having the greatest perceived risk of killing or seriously harming officers, it did not have the highest levels of related in-service training provided by agencies or the highest levels of perceived need for future training. Training related to driver decision-making and high speed/pursuit driving and policy ranked among the lowest future training needs, yet data from the LEO Near Miss officer safety initiative suggests driver decision-making is one of the leading contributing factors for officer-involved motor vehicle collisions. In fact, 71% of officers self-reported that their decision-making was the primary contributing risk factor for either being involved or nearly being involved in a motor vehicle collision. Given these findings, one would expect that executives’ responses regarding perceived training needs would rank traffic safety as a top priority for officer safety training. This indicates a discrepancy between actual risks to officers and training provided to prepare officers for those risks.
  • Executives placed their highest priority for future training needs on areas related to the use of force and physical threats that officers associate with force events, including trends in threats to officer safety, officer survival training, situational indicators of potential assaults on officers, de-escalation, scenario training on lethal and non-lethal force, and active shooter training.
  • Law enforcement executives nationwide are struggling to balance providing additional and necessary training to officers with meeting the service demands of the communities they serve. Overall, the limited ability to pull officers from their daily duties due to workload demands (i.e. shift coverage) was identified as the most significant challenge, with almost half of executives identifying this as a major challenge, and 33% identifying it as a moderate challenge. An alternative to pulling officers off the street for training is to pay officers overtime to participate in training before or after shifts, or on a day off. However, having limited resources to pay for overtime was identified by the executives as the second biggest challenge. The order of these challenges was similar across region and agency type, but some differences were observed across agency size. For example, the smallest agencies (1-24 sworn personnel) were more likely to report not having facilities, equipment, enough trainers, and not enough funding for department-wide training as moderate or high challenges.

Project Resources

You can learn more about BJA’s VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Initiative at https://bja.ojp.gov/program/valor/overview.

Project Publications

Staff Contact(s)

Jennifer Zeunik

Jennifer Zeunik, MPA

Director of Local Programs

Christine Johnson

Christine Johnson

Project Associate

Media Contact

Media inquiries should be directed to our Communications team at:

media@policefoundation.org
202-833-1460

More Information

Project Status: Active

Project Period:  October 2016 - September 2021

Location(s): Tampa, FL, Arlington, TX, Alexandria, VA

Research Design: Non-experimental

Research Method(s): Interviews, Longitudinal study, Surveys, Secondary data analysis

Staff Contact(s)

Jennifer Zeunik

Jennifer Zeunik, MPA

Director of Local Programs

Christine Johnson

Christine Johnson

Project Associate

Media Contact

Media inquiries should be directed to our Communications team at:

media@policefoundation.org
202-833-1460