Officers participate in Below 100 training

Published 3:56 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Roughly 75 law enforcement officers from across the state participated in a Below 100 training intensive on Tuesday at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center located adjacent to Jeff State.

The Jemison Police Department along with the Clanton Police Department hosted the class from 9 a.m.-noon.

The class focused on the fact that over the course of the last 10 years, about 150 law enforcement officers nationwide have died each year in the line of duty.

Whether it was due to not wearing a seatbelt during a high-speed chase or forgetting to wear protective gear such as a vest, the class talked about situations where the death of an officer is often preventable.

Law Enforcement Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Doug Howard taught the class and said in some years, the number of deaths due to accidents is higher than the number of deaths due to felonies or assualt.

“These are important yet simple steps that could save your life,” Howard told the class. “The No. 1 rule for law enforcement is to go home at the end of the day.”

Since 1944, line-of-duty deaths have never been below 100.

Howard showed several videos during his presentation that dealt with different scenarios law enforcement officers often face.

“Showing the videos has really been great for getting people to think about things,” Howard said.

Howard said for many law enforcement officers, traveling at a high rate of speed is a common practice.

“There can be times you are driving 30 miles above the speed limit trying to catch someone but you don’t have your seatbelt on,” Howard said. “That split second decision could be the thing that ends up saving your life. There is a nationwide problem of officers who are not wearing their seatbelts. We write tickets to people for not wearing one but we struggle remembering to do it ourseleves.”

Howard said officers often forget to wear their body armor or protective vests while on patrol using common excuses such as the vests are too bulky or too hot.

“You also say you will get it when you need it but that may be too late,” Howard said. “A lot of officers will be doing a routine traffic stop and not have their vest on when they approach the vehicle.”

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said the class was important to serve as a helpful reminder for officers to remember to take simple steps that could reduce the number of line-of-duty deaths.

“The vests are bulky and they are hot and sometimes they aren’t pleasant to wear, but when you think about how that vest could be the thing that saves your life it changes your perspective,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said CPD particpates in the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act which is an intiative designed to provide a critical resource to state and local law enforcement.

The BVP program reimburses jurisidictions with federal funds for the purchase of vests.

Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said he participated in the Below 100 training in August along with Stilwell and it put a lot of things in perspective.

“I have had thousands of hours of training but I would have to say that this class was probably the most powerful,” Fulmer said. “It sends a personal message. Our department has a policy that we wear seatbealts but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to do that all of the time.”

Fulmer said officers never know when an emergency situation might come up.

“The training is a good reminder that these types of things could happen to anyone,” Fulmer said. “For people to think that this could happen at any second and always ensure that these safety and survival measures could save my life is something that is important to remember. This class is something for the officers attending to keep fresh on their minds and every single police officer needs the training.”

Each officer attending the session on Tuesday received four hours of training credit.

Officers from departments including Birmingham Police Department, Tarrant Police Deparment, Pelham Police Department, Chilton County E-911, Chambers County Sheriff’s Department, Elmore County Sheriff’s Department, Chilton County Sheriff’s Department, Jemison Police Department, Clanton Police Department and state Pardon and Parole participated in the training.