Each May we pause and pay tribute to the local, tribal, state, and federal law enforcement officers who have devoted their lives to safeguarding our own. Attorney General William P. Barr asks all Americans this week “to join me in saying ‘thank you’ to our nation’s federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers. Their devotion and sacrifice to our peace and security will not be taken for granted.”
“We honor our critical allies on the front lines in the pursuit of justice for all victims of crime and remember those brave men and women who have laid down their lives in defense of others,” pronounced Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Director Jessica Hart. “We recognize that our nation’s officers are crucial to the fulfillment of OVC’s mission and we thank them for their unwavering service.”
Law enforcement officers are often the first professionals to engage with victims following the commission of a crime. They provide the safety, protection, and compassion victims need and deserve in order to heal. It is therefore critical that law enforcement have tools to address the needs of crime victims – the skills to provide a trauma-informed response and resources to support and empower crime victims.
Bill Woolf, OVC’s Principal Deputy Director, knows something about the occupational hazards of law enforcement work. Mr. Woolf began his career as a police officer and was instrumental in starting a human trafficking task force in northern Virginia that identified 217 victims of sex and labor trafficking; 126 of them were recovered in the first two years of the task force’s operation. “During my tenure as a law enforcement officer I saw first-hand how trauma-informed interactions with victims of crime could foster the healing process,” said Mr. Woolf. “I value the opportunity I now have at OVC to inform programming that will strengthen our partnerships with law enforcement and support the brave women and men on the front lines.”
OVC has launched a number of programs and resources intended to enhance the delivery of services to victims of crime by law enforcement agencies. Whether directly or through grantees, OVC has partnered with law enforcement at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels to combat crime, promote safer neighborhoods, and establish collaborations between police and the communities they protect. In fiscal year 2019, OVC victim assistance grantees made 532 subawards—totaling $78,084,923—to 428 law enforcement organizations.
One especially important initiative is the Law Enforcement-Based Victim Services Program. Since FY 2018, OVC has awarded over $20 million to over 50 project sites to develop or enhance victim assistance service programs within law enforcement-based systems. This program intends to better coordinate partnerships with community-based programs to serve the broader needs and rights of all crime victims. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has been awarded over $5 million to serve as the training and technical assistance provider for the sites funded under this program since FY 18. To hear from a Law Enforcement-Based Victim Services Program site—the Chattanooga Police Department—view the 2020 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Theme Video.
Visit the Law Enforcement section of our website for information about other OVC-sponsored programs and resources, including Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims (ELERV). This strategy introduces law enforcement leaders to the benefits, challenges, methods, and responsibilities for enhancing their response to victims of crime.
Sometimes law enforcement officers themselves need healing. Vicarious trauma is a common and tragic occupational hazard in law enforcement that comes with a physical, emotional, and mental cost. To address this, OVC released the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT). VTT offers guidance to help law enforcement agencies and other first responders strengthen their ability to address work-related exposure to trauma.
Please join the Department in commemorating the law enforcement officers who were killed in the line-of-duty. The names of all fallen officers who have been added in 2020 to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Memorial will be read on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, during a Virtual Annual Candlelight Vigil. The vigil will be livestreamed to the public at 8:00 p.m. (eastern time).