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2016 General Officer Safety Award Winner
Fairfax County (VA) Police Department (1,400 sworn)
The Fairfax County (VA) Police Department is a winner for the second time in the General Officer Safety category as they recently submitted additional information on their athletic trainer program that serves as a part of their overall safety strategy, but is unique in its focus on preparedness for duty. This additional element, tied to the Safety Officer component reviewed last year, has again prompted them to be chosen as the winner in the General Officer Safety category.
The Fairfax County police Athletic Trainer (AT) is a certified athletic trainer who helps officers recover from injuries and provides useful strategies on avoiding common duty injuries that affect patrol officers. While this sounds like a wellness program, we found it works in conjunction with the Safety Officer program and supports general officer safety by providing specific guidance on issues that help prevent injuries and bolster tactical readiness.
Where the Safety Officer position is focused on scene safety, equipment safety, and hazardous material exposure, the AT focuses on readiness and injury prevention. The AT offers guidance on issues such as back pain and how to best position vehicle seats for back health and avoid stiffness when sitting in a vehicle for long periods. The program also created exercises that target grip strength to improve weapon retention and shooting performance.
The AT has also collaborated with the police academy’s Defensive Tactics trainers and created an exercise routine called “The Daily Seven.” This simple series of specifically developed exercises is designed to improve flexibility and strength. While not a fitness regimen that one may find in a wellness program, this is a basic daily routine designed to get officers ready for the street.
Both the Athletic Trainer and Safety Officer are full time, dedicated positions within the department and work together as they support not only scene safety but performance safety. The Injury cost reductions associated with the AT program average 22% - 26%, and cost reductions for the academy resulting from the preventive nature of the program have averaged 50% - 85%. This estimated cost savings does not take into account savings from the lower use of overtime to maintain staffing levels when officers were not on full duty due to injuries. A satisfaction survey of employees showed the following 96% are satisfied with the AT program.
Lastly, although not tied to the Athletic Trainer or Safety Officer programs, the department has tactical first-aid program that equips officers with tourniquets, hemostatic gauze, pressure bandages, and nasal airways. The program was adopted in conjunction with “Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC),” a program spearheaded by Dr. Reed Smith, Arlington County Police and Fire’s Chief of Medical Operations.