During this year’s recognition of National Police Week, we discuss exposures and controls for police officer injuries while working at night. Police Officer injuries increase during evening and night hours due in large part to the increase in dangerous illegal activities and the restraint on sight and vision. A recent National Institute of Health survey identified a higher injury risk associated with night shift work in police officers. Night shift combined with high work activity was strongly associated with high injury risk. The increase in hazardous behaviors and the addition of these behaviors becoming more dangerous after sunset have statistically led to an increase in police officer injuries compared to daytime patrols.
Hazards involving third-shift activities include the inability to see clearly as well as the concern about being seen by the public. During foot pursuits, officers can be injured from the inability to negotiate hazards in the terrain or community. Slip, trip and falls will increase in frequency and are likely to be more severe when night-time foot pursuits are conducted. Even routine traffic controls, including traffic stops, are more dangerous at night due the lack of vision for oncoming traffic. Officers can be struck during these low-visibility conditions, so adherence to your police department’s standard operating procedures for conducting traffic stops and traffic controls is vital to keep officers safe.
Police officer injuries during third-shifts can also be due to fatigue, erratic work hours and lack of sleep. Exhaustion can lead to slower reaction times and affect one’s sense of logic. It was especially noted that officers returning to night work after some time off (i.e. injury or vacation) were especially compromised by fatigue and experienced more frequent and severe injuries. Supervisors must therefore monitor the activities and behaviors of these officers during their first few days returning to the night shift.
Additional contributing factors to third-shift police officer injures include the younger age and inexperience of night-shift personnel, interactions with people who may be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and crimes committed with dangerous weapons.
Tips for adopting to third-shift police work and decreasing the risks of injury include:
The risk of injury during night work is increased for all municipal staff, and police officers experience the potential for injury at a greater rate. Be aware of the conditions that lead to this injury frequency and take steps to control them within your police department. Additional police safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website located @ www.compalliance.org
Use of restraint policies need to be implemented and training on the appropriate measure of force should be the standard. Below are some techniques that can be used in conjunction with training on evaluating the appropriate force/restraint needed for each situation. Reference the Use of Force continuum on such circumstances to assist in determining the level of force which may be necessary to keep the officers and public safe.
According to Dr. Michael Schlosser, Ph.D., the director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, and the Institute's lead control and arrest tactics instructor, officers should never have just one "go-to" control tactic, whether it's a hold, takedown, or another tactic. Match each tactic with a secondary, complementary move that works with the arrestee's resistance.
Every takedown, control hold, or defensive tactic has a defense or counter. Learn these defenses and have available a secondary counter-tactic. If a training partner defends the initial tactic, study and identify the counter-move and learn a counter-tactic. This does not have to be complicated, and it is essential that you discover a secondary tactic. You must then train in your "go-to" tactics and in the counter-tactics.
The Sankyo Technique – Empty Hand Control - Sankyo is an Aikido technique that is extremely effective and applicable for controlling resistant subjects. However, it requires a deep commitment to training in the technique before attempting to overcome resistance on the street.
Arm Hold Takedowns - the officer, while remaining close to the arrestee, pivots behind the arrestee (putting the arrestee off-balance) The officer pulls on the wrist, keeping the arrestee's arm near his or her body while using rotation and direction to gain control.
Gooseneck & Cow Paw - Gooseneck (hyperflexion) and Cow Paw (hyperextension) techniques can cause pain compliance. As with the Gooseneck, if the arrestee complies, you should maintain strong control of the arrestee in this position while releasing some tension on the wrist.
Remote Restraint - Thought of as “remote handcuffs”, the BolaWrap® remote restraint device is a patented, hand-held pre-escalation apprehension tool for police that discharges a Kevlar® cord to restrain noncompliant individuals or persons in crisis from a distance.
All of the above techniques require policy adoption and officer training until they are understood completely. The use of mechanical devices such as tasers work well to apprehend a combative suspect. It is most important to equip your officers with the mental, physical and mechanical means to protect themselves when on patrol.
Additional police safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website: www.compalliance.org
The Comp Alliance had another great year in 2021! We are happy to announce the continuation of our innovative programs that reward our members for their loyalty and safety. You can read more about these programs and initiatives in our 2021 Annual Membership Report below. We are grateful for the support of our members and professional partners as we look forward to building upon our strong financial history and exceptional service in 2022 and beyond.
Comp Alliance 2021 Annual Report
To view a pdf version of the Annual Report please pdf click here (6.16 MB) .
You can also view past Annual Reports by clicking here and logging into your account.
Police officer injuries originate from a variety of sources and those sustained during motor vehicle incidents continue to be at the top of injury frequency and severity. It is important to promote motor vehicle safety among officers so they can stay safe while working to make communities safer. During this National Police Week, let’s take a look at the exposure vehicle operations create and how to avoid vehicle accidents and subsequent injuries.
Over the past four years, police officer injuries associated with motor vehicle incidents accounted for 10% of the total police department injuries and 16% of the law enforcement claim cost for Comp Alliance members. One officer per week has been killed on our nation’s roads on average over the last 10 years. Most years, motor vehicle-related incidents are the main cause of death for officers. From a review of these types of injuries, most incidents were considered to be preventable, including those deemed to be the fault of the officer.
With the majority of the incidents studied to be preventable, officer actions contributed in some part to the incident and injuries sustained. It is therefore necessary to review safe driving techniques with your police officers to confirm they operate motor vehicles safely and under control. Review standard operating procedures for traffic stops and crowd controls, as well as expectations for when the officer will be outside their vehicle. Officer actions which lead to vehicle incidents include unsafe pursuits, unsafe emergency operation, distracted driving, speeding, speed unsafe for conditions, and excessive speed through traffic, among others. Behaviors that contribute to injuries include the failure to wear a seat belt, driving with ‘tunnel-vision’ during pursuits, ignoring signs of roadway dangers, and experiencing increased stress which can negatively impact focus and attention. ‘Tunnel-vision’ is a condition in which officers focus so much on the pursuit that they fail to recognize hazards encountered during the pursuit, including pedestrians, traffic, traffic signals, road conditions, etc.
Training your staff on a comprehensive vehicle operation policy will assist with the prevention of officer injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
Proper Vehicle Traffic Stop Procedures
The mental health of officers is vital to maintain safe vehicle operations. Officers need to remain focused on the task at hand, avoid distractions, and remain calm. Practice calming techniques like slow, controlled breathing, maintain contact with supervisors with clear, concise instruction during vehicle stops and pursuits.
Police officer injuries due to motor vehicle accidents can be greatly reduced through proper policy development, training and supervisory oversight. Look to make improvements in your department today.
Additional police safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website. www.compalliance.org
Studies on ergonomic injuries in police departments report they occur most frequently to the back, hands and fingers, the knees, and the legs (Mayhew, 2001). Back pain is the most significant ergonomic risk requiring attention. Siting and standing for long periods of time, in a car, at a desk, or standing at a function all put stressors on the lumbar and cervical spine, head and shoulders. Sudden movements when restraining offenders and sitting in uncomfortable positions for long periods, also contribute to ergonomic injuries.
At the individual level, police officers can take steps to improve ergonomics and reduce risk of injury by doing a few mindful practices each day:
At an organizational level, departments can promote physical fitness programs with the purpose of improving muscular performance that may have a beneficial impact on back and knee injuries. Improving physical fitness may also have a positive effect on reducing stress and musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder rotation and even cardiovascular risks. Allow officers time to work away from the patrol vehicle and desk to stretch and move around.
Physical ergonomic risks also include noise and temperature extremes. For example, US regulations state that workers should not be exposed to more than 90 decibels in an 8-hour day to protect their hearing. Even though a police car siren can reach maximum levels of 110 decibels, the everyday time-weighted exposure rarely exceeds 85 decibels. Extreme body temperatures experienced by police officers may negatively impact physical abilities. Cold weather can restrict blood circulation and tightens muscles, while hot weather can cause muscle cramping and soreness. Long hours of driving also resulted in a higher prevalence and severity of hand and wrist pain, for many police officers.
A solution for combating ergonomic stressors is to carry out a comprehensive ergonomic study with the object of redesigning the patrol car (ergonomically designed seats, dashboard, and equipment installation), improving office workspace and addressing police belts. Police belts contain vital equipment but creates added weight that effects an officer’s body, leading to potential musculoskeletal damage, and the negative impact it has on their ability to run, change direction, carry a victim, or deal with a noncompliant offender. Some hazards, when put together, create additional injury potential. In a recent study that evaluated the effects of duty belt and driver seat design on posture and discomfort, officers reported a high prevalence of problems in the lower back from prolonged driving.
A workspace redesign should look at aesthetics, internal space enclosures, accessibility, adaptability, management of air quality and temperature, control of noise, suitability and maintainability of materials. Consider vehicle seating, computer locations, lightweight belt configuration, lighting improvements and noise reduction when evaluating officer workspaces. Administrative improvements could be considered for shift development, health and wellness programs, less frequent shift rotations, and mental health awareness programs.
Reach out to a doctor (orthopedists and chiropractors are well educated in ergonomic distress disorders) when you first begin to experience pain. Waiting to evaluate pain can increase the severity of an injury and ultimately lead to harmful outcomes. A doctor can also give you suggestions on improving your work dynamics to prevent future injury. Officers should work with their police department administrators on implementing these improvements.
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