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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

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Washington, DC 20530

June 2019 | Volume 12 | Issue 5

Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is an officer safety initiative, developed by the National Police Foundation with support from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of near misses and close calls. Each of these stories offers valuable lessons and reminders that can be incorporated into training and policy development to improve officer safety.

The following story about how a state trooper narrowly avoided being seriously injured serves as a reminder of how dangerous an officer’s job can be.

A state trooper stopped to assist a motorist stranded on the side of a busy highway in severe weather that caused poor visibility. While the trooper was talking to the motorist, the trooper’s patrol SUV was struck from behind, forcing it into the trooper and the motorist. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel arrived on scene and determined the trooper and the motorist did not require medical treatment, but the driver that struck the trooper’s vehicle suffered a facial injury requiring treatment. While that person was being treated by EMS, another vehicle came from behind and struck her vehicle, forcing it back into the trooper’s SUV. The driver at fault in the secondary collision was not injured, and fortunately no other injuries occurred. None of the at-fault drivers were impaired, but their speed at the time of the accident was a primary contributing factor.

In an effort to learn from this near miss to prevent a serious injury or death from occurring in the future, the following lessons were shared for the benefit of officers across the country:

  • The amount of time spent roadside, particularly in inclement weather, should be minimized.
  • Recognize the importance of positioning motorists and officers behind any available cover such as vehicles or guardrails.
  • It may be appropriate to leave vehicles that do not constitute a hazard and transport people out of harm’s way.
  • With EMS on scene evaluating patients, consider requesting a fire engine to block the adjacent travel lane and provide protection to the first responders, especially during inclement weather.
  • Be sure to clear the scene as quickly as possible.

Research on high-risk injuries has shown that serious injuries and fatalities are often preceded by numerous near misses. It is our duty in law enforcement to systematically collect and learn from these near misses—instead of only learning from tragedy—and to improve officer safety and ensure every officer makes it home to their friends and family after every shift. Please visit the LEO Near Miss website for more information or to share your own near miss story so other officers can benefit.

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