Statement from Colonel Michael Edmonson, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and General Chair of the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police
I write to you today with a heavy heart but with no greater purpose, the safety of our officers. Last week, member agencies of the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police (S&P) lost four officers in the span of five days due to line of duty deaths. One of our agencies, the Surete du Quebec, lost two officers within ten days. These tragic deaths come on the heels of the 119th IACP Annual Conference where President Craig Steckler proclaimed officer safety to be the number one priority of the association. His goal of zero officer deaths is something that I applaud and an initiative that our member agencies will support.
Our superintendents, who collectively command 70,000 troopers in the United States, plus the thousands of officers, constables, and agents of the Ontario Provincial Police, Puerto Rico Police Department, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Surete du Quebec certainly understand that we have a responsibility to protect our officers. The recent tragedies have reinforced our commitment to ensure that we are providing the best training and equipment to our personnel. We must also ensure that we are sharing relevant information and intelligence in a timely manner, and have the right policies in place so that each and every officer returns home safely to their loved ones.
Less than two months ago in Louisiana, St. John Parish Deputy Sheriffs Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were shot and killed by members of a domestic terrorist group known as sovereign citizens. They were shot while investigating an earlier police ambush shooting. My agency, the Louisiana State Police, served as lead on the investigation. I was asked by the St. John Sheriff to present the flag to Deputy Sheriff Nielsen’s widow at the funeral. As I knelt down to speak to Daniell and looked into her eyes, I realized that I could tell her what had happened to her husband. However, I could not tell her why it had happened.
We need to do all we can to prevent felonious assaults against law enforcement officers and do more to understand the why. We lost three troopers in August — two in West Virginia and one in California — to gun violence. As General Chair of the S&P Division, I commit our membership to work with the IACP’s new Center for Officer Safety and Wellness as it studies these incidents and offers guidance to the field. It is my hope that the center will provide information to us that will prevent one of my fellow superintendents, police chiefs, or sheriffs from having to look into the eyes of another grieving widow, mother, and child.
Too many of our officers continue to be killed and injured carrying out important duties and law enforcement responsibilities on our roadways. In a two day period last week, we lost three officers from S&P member agencies due to traffic-related causes. Virginia State Police Trooper Andrew Fox was struck and killed while directing traffic. Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Blake Coble was killed when his patrol car collided with a tractor trailer, after the semi ran a stop sign at a high rate of speed. Constable Donovan Lagrange of the Surete du Quebec succumbed to injuries after he was struck by a vehicle while he had two cars pulled over for speeding.
Because of the recent rash of line of duty deaths involving our members, I am appointing Chief John Batiste of the Washington State Patrol, the immediate past General Chair of the S&P Division, to head up our overall officer safety efforts. Chief Batiste suffered a tragedy of his own earlier this year. One of his troopers, Tony Radulescu, was shot and killed while making a traffic stop.
I have asked Chief Batiste to ensure that we are doing all we can as state police superintendents to protect our officers and ensure that we are fully coordinated and engaged with all other IACP officer safety efforts, including the work of our traffic/safety subcommittee headed by Colonel John Born from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the work of Commissioner Joe Farrow of the California Highway Patrol, who serves as chair of the IACP’s Highway Safety Committee. Like Chief Batiste, Commissioner Farrow lost an officer recently. CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom died in August from a gunshotwound he sustained while making a traffic stop.
It is my belief that the best way to honor the memories of these and the other officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is by doing what we can as law enforcement leaders to prevent the next line of duty death. I commit our Division to President Steckler’s vision of zero officer deaths and commit Division staff to work closely with the IACP’s new Center for Officer Safety and Wellness. I will report back to you very soon on Chief Batiste’s recommendations.