The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) was selected as the 2017 recipient of the Officer Traffic Safety Award by Destination Zero, an officer safety initiative sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund. Sheriff Ty Trenary and Undersheriff Rob Beidler received the award on behalf of the SCSO May 14 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“We are honored and humbled to have been selected for this award,” Trenary said in a release. “The initiatives implemented by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to improve driving and traffic safety are unprecedented and unique for our nation’s law enforcement. Our top priority is employee and community safety, and we are going to do everything we can to ensure everyone gets home safely every night.”
Nationwide, traffic-related deaths continue to be one of the leading causes of line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement. In 2016, 53 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents, which accounted for almost 40 percent of all U.S. police line-of-duty deaths that year, a 10 percent increase from 2015.
In 2016, the SCSO made driving and traffic safety a top priority after the agency experienced 11 on-duty collisions in 2015 that resulted in major injury for employees and civilians. The cost of these collisions included $151,000 in medical, legal and wage/time loss; three totaled patrol cars; and $2.3 million in litigation costs.
The SCSO incorporated the tenets and testimonials of Below 100, a national program designed to eliminate preventable line-of-duty deaths and injuries, into agency-wide communications and mandatory training. In addition, all SCSO commissioned employees — deputies and supervisors alike — were required to attend and/or watch a presentation by Kim Schlau, the mother of two daughters killed by a speeding Illinois state trooper.
The SCSO also instituted a monthly driving review board and changed policies to eliminate unauthorized pursuits. In 2017, “telematics” were installed into every patrol car, designed to improve safety and training.
At the end of 2016, the SCSO saw a significant reduction in traffic-, pursuit- and collision-related injuries and damages, decreasing major injury collisions by 32 perecent and pursuits by 38 percent, according to a release.
“It is my hope that the best practices put forth by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, as well as our lessons learned, will serve as a model for other law enforcement agencies across the country,” Trenary said.