In the Line of Duty, what does that term mean to you? According to Officer Down Memorial Page, there were 134 police officers killed in the line of duty last year. The two-leading cause of line of duty death categories were, killed by gunfire 47, and crashes 22. December was the deadliest month with 18 deaths followed by June with 17. Texas was the deadliest state with 18 followed by 16 in New York, 123 were male officers and 11 were female.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has experienced 31 trooper line of duty deaths in our agency’s history since 1931. Two of these 31 were academy classmates, Corporal Michael E. Webster and Sergeant Robert A. Guilliams. Two also occurred during my 5-year tenure as the superintendent, Sergeant Joseph G. Schuengel, Trooper Frederick F. Guthrie Jr. and K9 Reed. Below lists the breakdown of how our troopers died in the line of duty.
Total Line of Duty Deaths: 31 Aircraft accident 3 Automobile crash 7 Drowned 1 Gunfire 9 Struck by vehicle 5 Vehicle pursuit 1 Vehicular assault 4 Weather/natural disaster 1
Any way you look at it these numbers are staggering. There have not been below 100 officer line of duty deaths in the United States in a single year since 1943, when there were 99. The all-time high for line of duty deaths was 278, in 1974.
The Below 100 program was founded in 2010 to eliminate preventable line of duty deaths and injuries through innovative training and awareness. The Below 100 mission states “Reduce line-of duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year (Not seen since 1943).” Below 100 has identified five key tenants by which we can Improve officer safety – areas where we can make a difference. Below 100 isn’t about statistics. It is about each and every officer, trainer and supervisor taking individual and collective responsibility for the decisions and actions that contribute to safety.
These tenants are: Wear your seatbelt. Wear your vest. Watch your speed. WIN – What’s Important Now? Remember: Complacency Kills!
It is most important we honor the ultimate sacrifice each of our 31 troopers have made to make our state a safer place for all of us. We should never forget the sacrifices made by these troopers and their families. A Trooper Monument and Memorial at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Headquarters in Jefferson City is a very appropriate way to show that honor and respect to our fallen troopers. If you have yet to contribute to this worthwhile project, I encourage you to do so!
By the way, I Googled “In the line of duty” and this is what I found, “While one is working.” The job of a law enforcement officer is more than just “working.” It is a career that will never leave you and it becomes part of who you are and your identity. Webster defines the word “duty” as follows:
NOUN Duties (plural noun) A moral or legal obligation; responsibility. “it’s my duty to uphold the law” “she was determined to do her duty as a citizen.” “a strong sense of duty”