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Officers from at least 10 law enforcement agencies across the state attended a nationwide training initiative on Tuesday that’s designed to reduce the number of line-of-duty deaths.
The in-service training program at Wilson Community College hosted Below 100, an organization whose mission is to reduce law enforcement deaths to fewer than 100 per year by influencing “law enforcement culture by providing innovative training and awareness, through presentations, social media and webinars on identifying the leading causes and current trends in preventable line of duty deaths and injuries,” according to its website.
The last year the United States had fewer than 100 law enforcement deaths was 1943.
Darlene Hall, director of law enforcement training at WCC’s Law Enforcement Academy, said the training was requested following the death of Deputy David LeeSean Manning of the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office in a line of duty automobile crash in March.
“Unfortunately, before the training we had another officer killed in Rocky Mount, so it just reinforced why a training like this is so important,” Hall said.
Senior Police Officer Christopher James Driver was killed in a line-of-duty car crash in June. Four North Carolina officers have died in the line of duty this year.
Tuesday’s training was facilitated by Tom Dirlam, a retired 31-year veteran of the Michigan State Police who has worked as a Below 100 instructor for three years and also serves as Below 100 coordinator for the state of Michigan.
Through a series of videos that showed real-world examples of the perils involved with protecting and serving the public, Dirlam drove home the five tenets of the Below 100 program: wearing a seat belt, wearing reflective vests and protective gear, watching speed, focusing on the task at hand through the acronym WIN — What’s Important Now, and knowing that complacency kills.
Many of the scenarios highlighted officers who neglected one or more of these tenets out of familiarity or comfort within their duties, only to be injured or killed when the situation went awry. Some of the real-life videos showed a shooting ambush on desk-duty officers not wearing protective gear and accidents caused by distracted driving, along with stories of officers who died as a result of underestimating the gravity of a situation.
Capt. Eddie Moore of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office said about 30 of the agency’s officers attended the training. He said they were prompted to take part after seeing officers in surrounding agencies killed in situations that may have been prevented.
“It reinforces that no matter how long you’ve been doing this job, you’re not 10 feet tall. You’ve got to take into consideration a lot of things. Don’t get complacent. Use the resources available to you, whether it’s your vest, slowing down your car, wearing seat belts, simple things that we can do,” Moore said.
Moore said he would love to see line-of-duty deaths reduced to zero, but feels reducing deaths to fewer than 100 per year is realistic.
Dirlam urged officers to start incorporating commonsense practices that may save their lives, stop taking unnecessary risks, continue the best practices their departments already have in place and change any habits that may do harm to themselves or fellow officers.