The Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program is run by the F.B.I. to help law enforcement agencies. The F.B.I. provides training and policing statistics to prevent officers from becoming wounded or killed in the line of duty.
I know some of you might be wondering how they help reduce the number of officers wounded or killed; I know I did. The goal for the program is to “provide relevant, high quality, potentially lifesaving information to law enforcement agencies focusing on why an incident occurred, as opposed to what occurred during the incident, with the hope of preventing future incidents.” The relevant, high quality, and lifesaving information is collected and disseminated through a 3- tiered approach.
What is the LEOKA 3-Tiered Approach?
The 3-Tiered Approach to collecting all relevant information for law enforcement officers (LEOs) is based on data collection, research, and training. These 3 steps are used to ensure uniformity in the data reporting process for LEOs across the country. It’s important to make sure that every law enforcement agency has access to the same reporting system to maintain integrity in reporting.
F.B.I. DATA COLLECTION
First, the F.B.I. collects all pertinent data from assaults and deaths in the line of duty. The main source of information is collected through the F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. Once data is collected, professional researchers and safety officer trainers create a curriculum based upon what officers are seeing in the field. For example, the majority of officers killed by guns are from a 9mm pistol. Knowing this, officers will be taught how to wear and use body armor to prevent future death or assault.
The F.B.I. researches what is used to assault officers and the circumstances around the incident. Understanding that most officers killed in the line of duty are from vehicle-related incidents is vital to the future protection of our officers. For example, 39 of the 41 officers accidentally killed on duty in 2019 were vehicle-related. To combat this trend, the F.B.I. offers driving school training and emphasizes proper speeds and the importance of seatbelts.
Once all the research is done and the data is collected, the F.B.I. implements what they’ve learned into training courses located inside the FBI’s Officer Safety Awareness Training (OSAT). The OSAT Program is designed to assist officers worldwide to work on mitigating injury and death in the line of duty. This is done with education conferences and real-world scenario training in controlled environments.
According to the F.B.I., 44 officers were killed by guns in 2019 with 34 (77%) police officers being killed by handguns. Understanding this number is the most important step in beginning to understand how to combat it. For example, if you know 77% of the officers killed are by handguns, the F.B.I. knows what threat is most imminent.
During the OSAT classes, officers learn how to prevent themselves from becoming victims. Everything from optimizing daily gear to the type of body armor worn on duty is discussed and taught.
Which Career Fields Are Counted in the LEOKA?
It’s always important to get the full picture of a national program so you can make your own interpretation of the data. One of the biggest questions to answer is who is considered by the F.B.I. to be an LEO? The following career fields are counted in the UCR and reported in the LEOKA Program:
City, Town, County, State Police
Federal Officers (F.B.I., A.T.F., D.E.A., etc...)
D.O.D. Police Officers
Military Police serving in a non-combat role
WHICH CAREER FIELDS ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE LEOKA?
U.S. and assistant U.S. attorneys
Bureau of Prison officers
Private security officers
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE?
Yes, the F.B.I. handles everything in a case-by-case situation because many circumstances fit into the reporting of law enforcement activity. For example, if a corrections officer assists with a suspect’s apprehension and is shot during the apprehension, he/she would be counted in the LEOKA. The same thing is true for a probation officer driving with a police officer to locate and apprehend the probate. If the officer and probation officer are shot while performing this duty, the probation officer will be counted in the LEOKA.
Does Body Armor Help Save Police Officer’s Lives?
As common sense as this question is, many people still ask if body armor is worth it. Let’s use the LEOKA to explain why it’s important for LEOs to wear body armor. It might seem ominous that 20 of the 39 officers killed with guns in 2019 were confirmed to be wearing body armor.
However, once you look into where those officers were shot, you realize that no type of body armor would have saved the majority of police killed last year. 17 of the 39 officers were shot in the head or neck and had no chance of surviving those wounds. Another 9 officers were killed when shot in the chest or abdomen. There were 12 victims not reported, so we don’t know for sure where they were shot.
HOW MANY OFFICERS WERE SHOT AND SURVIVED?
There have been 2,141 officers non-fatally injured in gun violence on duty in 2019. This may not sound like a lot, but if it weren’t for body armor, the death toll would be astronomically higher than the 39 reported last year. With this understanding, every law enforcement organization must provide proper training and equipment to protect our men and women in blue.
Body Armor Training
For the 20 officers wearing body armor and still lost their lives, most of them couldn’t do anything to save their lives. This is the most unfortunate truth about the sacrifice our LEOs face daily. However, there are things LEOs can do to increase their chances of success during an incident.
I’ve been fortunate to learn from both the military and civilian police departments on how to wear and use body armor to your advantage. For example, when you’re facing a suspect, you should always square yourself up to them. If the entire plate is facing straight in front of the suspect you have a better chance at catching a bullet with your armor instead of soft tissue.
Rifle Protection Body Armor
Everyone reading this is probably questioning why we would worry about rifle protection when most of all assaults are with handguns? As rare as it is to see around the country, police do encounter AK-47 and AR-15 style rifles. You’re going to need at least a Level III to stop a 5.56mm bullet. Just last year 10 officers were shot and killed by either hunting, AR-15, or AK-47 Style rifles.
If you’re curious about Level/Type III Armor read our blog, ShotStop® | Buyer’s Guide to Ballistic Armor
Even if the probability of running into an AK-47 is low, it's still very possible. Before you think that you’re not able to comfortably wear Level III & IV armor in a tactical environment, know that our Duritium® armor is as light as 2.4 lbs per plate! Our Level III armor will give you the protection you need against almost any threat, except armor-piercing bullets.
ShotStop® Body Armor
The most common reason for LEOs not wanting to wear body armor is the weight and overall comfort of the armor. Most of the time, when you wear armor for a 12-hour shift, your back and shoulders will be sore, and your shirt will be stuck to your body with a slimy layer of sweat. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore with any of our ballistic armor systems.
SHOTSTOP® DURITIUM® III ICW
The most popular model for police officers is the Level/Type III ICW body armor. You will not be able to find a lighter (2.4 lbs.) and thinner (0.6”) body armor than our Duritium® III ICW. The idea that body armor has to be heavy and uncomfortable is something our company has worked over a decade to dismiss.
Level III ICW armor is a plate insert designed to be worn with a soft plate to reach the level of protection required by the NIJ. This armor is designed to defeat the 5.56x45mm, 55-grain ball (M193), 7.62x39mm PS ball (MSC), and the 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ. If you’re basing your level of protection on the LEOKA Program, our Level III ICW armor will protect you against any bullet carried by civilians.
The LEOKA is designed to assist local and national law enforcement organizations by providing data collection, research, and training for hundreds of thousands of LEOs. Understanding the threats that officers face and the circumstances they’re placed in allows the F.B.I. to curtail their training to real-world applications.
As the LEOKA continues to gather data from the nation, training, equipment, and policies will change to meet those needs. The LEOKA is vital to encouraging and explaining the importance of body armor and training for LEOs.