Back in 2010, the Department of Justice realized that the number of assaults on law enforcement officers was rising in an alarming fashion. That realization led to a desire on the part of Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff to give officers better training and more tools to help them prevent and survive assaults.
Speaking before the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in Orlando, Fla., in October 2010, Holder unveiled the VALOR (Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability) Initiative. "Since last October, 163 officers have been killed in the line of duty nationwide, with more than a third of them killed by gunfire," Holder told the chiefs at IACP. "These losses of mothers and fathers, spouses and siblings, children and colleagues represent an alarming increase in officer fatalities. The Justice Department is committed to turning back this rising tide, to meeting increased violence with renewed vigilance, and to doing everything within our power—and using every tool at our disposal—to keep law enforcement officers safe."
Building the Program
Once the Attorney General had announced the VALOR Initiative, it fell to the staff of the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the Department of Justice to develop the VALOR Initiative program. "We put together a group of subject matter experts who took a look at research about violent encounters that had already occurred to see what we could learn from those past incidents," says Deborah Meader, policy advisor with the BJA's VALOR initiative.
According to Meader, the goal of the VALOR Initiative is to help officers rediscover and hone their officer safety skills. "We want them to be able to identify, react to, and survive any type of violent encounter they might experience," she says.
Regional VALOR training sessions are conducted at no cost to the host agency or to the officers who attend. "We want to disseminate this across the nation, so we go out to them," says Meader.
The VALOR Initiative trains officers through two basic programs: regional classes and short online sessions that are only accessible to credentialed law enforcement officers and are designed for in-service and roll call training.
The two-day VALOR Regional Training class examines emerging threats, techniques for anticipating and surviving a violent encounter, and other survival tools for state, local, and tribal officers. In addition to the standard VALOR program for all officers, VALOR offers a Train the Trainer Workshop and an Executive Briefing.
Designed to help trainers develop in-house officer safety programs, the Valor Train the Trainer Workshop is a two-day program open only to trainers. The Valor Executive Briefing is a one-day program that allows law enforcement executives to network and discuss their agencies' approaches to officer safety training.
VALOR training also addresses active shooter response. The VALOR Initiative partners with Texas State University in San Marcos to provide active shooter response training under the ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) program. ALERRT classes available from VALOR range from Basic Active Shooter to First Responder Operations in Rural Terrain.
Meader says the joint VALOR-ALERRT classes have been extremely popular: "There's such a demand for this type of training, it's almost as though there can't be too much of it."
Another partnership that has benefited the VALOR Initiative is the involvement of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. "They assist us in getting the word out about the training and providing officer safety outreach," says Meader. "They really help us let officers know about this free resource through social media like Twitter and Facebook. We knew from the beginning that they were an important partner to have."
The VALOR Initiative programs have proven to be extremely popular. "We have a long list of agencies that have requested this training," says Meader.
Since its beginnings in 2010, the VALOR Initiative has offered more than 80 regional VALOR training programs and more than 120 ALERRT active shooter response training programs. The demand has actually overwhelmed the VALOR trainers' capabilities, so the VALOR Initiative is now partnering with the FBI to train more trainers.
Demand has also led the BJA to request more funding for the VALOR Initiative. For fiscal year 2012 and 2013, VALOR Initiative funding was set at $2 million. President Obama's budget request for 2014 includes a $13 million increase in VALOR Initiative funding for a total of $15 million. Meader says the additional funds will be used to meet the needs of law enforcement because "it's definitely out there."
VALOR Initiative training participants would likely approve of the increase in funding. The program gets high marks from officers who have attended its classes, according to the BJA.
"At the end of the training session, we request that the participants provide us with feedback through a survey," says Meader. "We are trying to constantly improve the training and the delivery method for the training."
VALOR Initiative administrators also seek feedback from the program's participants months after they have completed the two-day sessions, says Meader. "The 90-day feedback is where we get written testimonials from officers who have been through the VALOR training."
Meader says she is especially proud of testimonials that the VALOR Initiative trainers receive from officers who have been through the program and say the training helped them on the street. Some have even said the VALOR training helped save their lives.
One example of the impact of the VALOR Initiative can be seen in a testimonial note the program received from a New Jersey officer: "Today I was involved in an arrest of a suspect who had two handguns and a knife. Your class gave me the insight to immediately recognize the suspect's refusal to be placed at a tactical disadvantage ... as a result (I) recovered a handgun from his waist and a knife from his back pocket ... I was in your class last Thursday to survive today ... tomorrow ... and in the next encounter."
The VALOR Initiative trainers and administrators have received dozens of testimonials like that from the more than 8,800 officers who have attended the classes. Meader says she is especially happy to see such comments from veteran officers. "One of the goals of the VALOR Initiative is to help the participants eliminate the complacency that we sometimes see in officers who have been on the job for a while, to help them hone their skills again," she says.
Interested officers can learn more about the VALOR Initiative here.