At a time of rising concern over attacks on officers, a new U.S. Justice Department study urges police departments to take steps to ensure officers’ safety, such as using body armor, waiting for backups on dangerous calls, and correcting “dangerous behaviors” that leave them at risk, the New York Times reports. The study, analyzing the deaths of 684 officers over five years, found that domestic disputes were the most dangerous type of call. It asked departments to do more to warn officers of the risks they might confront in such emergencies. Too often, the report found, officers walked into dangerous situations with only limited information. The report was issued after five police officers were killed in an ambush in Dallas, and three officers were killed in an attack in Baton Rouge. The killings led police in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere to require that officers travel in pairs. The Justice Department said departments should also move aggressively on other fronts to minimize risks from both attacks and accidents.
Some recommendations were common-sense safety steps. In about one of every five traffic fatalities, the officer killed was not wearing a seatbelt. Other solutions may be more difficult to adopt because of limits on funding, staffing and equipment. Fourteen percent of 132 officers killed beginning in 2010 were not wearing body armor, said the study, which was funded by the Justice Department in partnership with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Body armor would not have prevented all of the killings, because 20 percent of the attackers used rifles, including high-powered models like AR-15s or AK-47s that can penetrate typical armor. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in Baton Rouge on Friday to meet with police and community leaders, said it was too early in the Dallas and Baton Rouge investigations to determine whether there had been warning signs that could have been acted upon.