Tracking Officer Injuries: A Chiefs Duty

By Kent Barker, Chief of Police, Tualatin, OR, Police Department, Immediate Past General Chair, Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police and IACP Vice President at Large

As a Police Chief, I am always looking for ways to improve our department and better protect those who serve the agency. When asked by IACP to participate in the Reducing Officer Injury project (ROI) that examined line-of-duty injuries to officers, I was excited and hoped that the results would assist us in reducing injuries and improving our agency. The focus of the project was tracking and reporting all departmental officer injuries for a period of one year. One of the benefits was that we began to look more closely at our injuries and think about the problem in new ways.

The results allowed us to better understand exactly where, among whom, and how injuries were occurring, and begin to develop strategies for prevention. We asked more questions of the injured officers and involved street-level supervisors in tracking injury details and coming up with preventative solutions. We started to change our mindset and refused to accept injuries as “just part of the job.”

A few years prior to our participation in this project, our department implemented a physical fitness incentive to all of our sworn personnel. The program links a financial incentive to officers passing an annual fitness test. We have seen positive results using this program and have seen our injuries decrease by over 50% since implementation.  Although we have improved our efforts to reduce injuries, we still have an unacceptable number of injuries and believe more work must be done.

Taking the initiative to better track officer injuries is an important step for law enforcement agencies. Doing so reveals how injury risks can be mitigated and/or prevented. It also allows for a greater understanding of the range of injuries sustained by officers in the line-of-duty and the resulting financial concerns for a department.

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the IACP Annual Conference in Philadelphia, IACP will be releasing the Reducing Officer Injuries toolkit for law enforcement and a summary of project findings in conjunction with a plenary session titled Pushing the Boundaries of Officer Safety and Wellness (1:00-3:00 pm, room 114). Project resources will also be made available for download on the IACP website that same day.

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