Nominations Being Accepted for 2021 Law Enforcement Design Awards

The second annual Law Enforcement Design Awards program showcases new architectural designs of law enforcement stations and training facilities that represent the very best in security and technology today.

The call for entries is open for law enforcement facilities built after January 2017. Entries can be submitted in one of five categories through

  • LE Facilities I—More than 50,000-sq.-ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes standalone police stations, sheriff departments, state police facilities, etc.
  • LE Facilities II—Less than 50,000-sq. ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes standalone police stations, sheriff departments or state police facilities, etc.
  • LE Facilities III—Less than 25,000-sq. ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes police stations, sheriff departments or state police facilities, etc.
  • Public Safety Centers—911 dispatch centers, emergency operations centers, etc. as standalone LE facilities or combined with other agencies or organizations such as fire, police, sheriff, state police or local government offices
  • Training Facilities—Facilities containing classrooms, fire ranges, sim villages, tracks, etc. 

Entries will be edited for anonymity and submitted to a panel of judges consisting of law enforcement officers and architects specialized in law enforcement architecture. No judge will have an entry in the award program.

Law enforcement agencies and architects are encouraged to complete Entry Forms for their projects by September 9 with Portfolios due by September 16. Upon receipt of the Entry Form, a Project Data Sheet will be sent with the guidelines for the Portfolio. The entrance fee includes a full-page feature for entries in the OFFICER December issue as well as digitally on

Awards include Gold, Silver and Bronze for each category. Gold Award winners will have a two-page spread in the OFFICER December issue as well.

Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to contact their architect or construction firm to submit their projects, not only be recognized for outstanding design, but to honor the communities served and to spotlight their architectural achievements.

Missouri governor, AG Send Defiant Response to Justice Department Over Gun Law

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Missouri Governor Mike Parson

Story By Summer Ballentine (Associated Press)​ for ​KSDK

Missouri’s Republican governor and attorney general said in a defiant letter to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday that they stand by the state’s new law that would ban police from enforcing federal gun rules.

Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote that they still plan to enforce the new law, which Parson signed Saturday. The measure would penalize local police departments if their officers​​ enforce federal gun laws.

Schmitt and Parson wrote that they will “fight tooth and nail” to defend the right to own guns as spelled out in the state constitution and the new law.

“We will not tolerate any attempts by the federal government to deprive Missourians of this critical civil right,” they wrote.

In a letter sent Wednesday night and obtained by The Associated Press, Justice Department officials pointed out that federal law trumps state law under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

Brian Boynton, an acting assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in the letter that Missouri’s law threatens to disrupt the working relationship between federal and local law enforcement and noted that the state receives federal grants and technical assistance.

Prosecutors in Missouri’s attorney general’s office have already withdrawn from nearly two dozen federal drug, gun and carjacking cases in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They had been working with federal counterparts as part of the Safer Streets initiative that Schmitt touted in 2019. Attorneys from Schmitt’s office were deputized as assistant U.S. attorneys to help prosecute violent crimes.

Missouri’s new law would subject law enforcement agencies with officers who knowingly enforce federal gun laws to a fine of about $50,000 per violating officer.

Boynton said Missouri’s law “conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulation” and that federal law would supersede the state’s new statute. He said federal agents and the U.S. attorney’s offices in the state would continue to enforce all federal firearms laws and regulations. He asked that Parson and Schmitt clarify the law and how it would work in a response by Friday.

Republican lawmakers who pushed Missouri’s new law said they were motivated by the potential for more restrictive gun laws under Democratic President Joe Biden. But state Democrats argued that it is unconstitutional and would likely get overturned if challenged in court.

Similar bills were introduced in more than a dozen other states this year, including Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa. In Texas, the governor has called for the state to become a so-called Second Amendment sanctuary.

Several states passed similar laws under then-president Barack Obama, though judges have ruled against them.

COPS Releases Publication Suite Focused on Law Enforcement Officer Wellness

Law enforcement officers regularly experience stress and secondary trauma during their shifts and rely on their families and friends as a positive social support network to maintain holistic wellness. 

The purpose of this executive guide, titled “Family Matters: Executive Guide for Developing Family-Friendly Policies, Procedures, and Culture,” is to create a roadmap for law enforcement agencies to develop stronger family-friendly policies, procedures, and organizational cultures to work in collaboration with officer support networks. The publication and companion tools for families and agencies guide professional dialogue around holistic wellness innovations, best practices to support employees, and opportunities within agencies to strengthen relationships with law enforcement families.
The executive guide also includes information on employee benefits, family planning, trauma and loss, disciplinary considerations, and retirement planning.
Download the free 46-page guide by visiting
The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaboratively addressing crime and disorder challenges. These free publications provide you with best practice approaches and give you access to collective knowledge from the field. Below you can find our recent and featured publications, and you can also search the Resource Center or our Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues or call the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Crash Rates Jump in Wake of Marijuana Legalization

Story by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More evidence is emerging that crash rates go up when states legalize recreational use and retail sales of marijuana.

Crash rates spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and retail sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and another by the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) show.

However, the preliminary results of a separate IIHS study of injured drivers who visited emergency rooms in California, Colorado and Oregon showed that drivers who used marijuana alone were no more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who hadn’t used the drug. That is consistent with a 2015 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found that a positive test for marijuana was not associated with increased risk of being involved in a police-reported crash.

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” says IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey. “That’s obviously something policymakers and safety professionals will need to address as more states move to liberalize their laws — even if the way marijuana affects crash risk for individual drivers remains uncertain.”

More than a third of U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The hefty tax revenues those states are earning have others exploring similar legislation, and recent polls indicate that 68 percent of American adults favor legalization. Consumption also appears to be expanding rapidly, with self-reports of past-month marijuana use doubling from 6 percent to 12 percent of those surveyed between 2008 and 2019.

That’s a potential concern for those who care about road safety. Driving simulator tests have shown that drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, find it harder to pay attention, have more difficulty maintaining their car’s position in the lane and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re sober. But such tests have also shown marijuana-impaired drivers are likely to drive at slower speeds, make fewer attempts to overtake and keep more distance between their vehicle and the one ahead of them.

To better understand the net impact on safety, researchers at IIHS and HLDI have conducted a series of studies since 2014 examining how legalization has affected crash rates and insurance claims in the first states to legalize recreational use.

The most recent of these studies from IIHS shows that injury and fatal crash rates in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington jumped in the months following the relaxation of marijuana laws in each state.

Combined, the impact of legalization and, subsequently, retail sales in the five states resulted in a 6 percent increase in injury crash rates and a 4 percent increase in fatal crash rates compared with other Western states where recreational marijuana use was illegal during the study period. Only the increase in injury crash rates was statistically significant.

That’s consistent with a 2018 IIHS study of police-reported crashes — most of which did not involve injuries or fatalities — that found that legalization of retail sales in Colorado,  Oregon and Washington was associated with a 5 percent higher crash rate compared with the neighboring control states.

Insurance records show a similar increase in claims under collision coverage, which pays for damage to an at-fault, insured driver’s own vehicle, HLDI’s latest analysis shows. The legalization of retail sales in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington was associated with a 4 percent increase in collision claim frequency compared with the other Western states over 2012-19. That’s down slightly from the 6 percent increase HLDI identified in a previous study, which covered 2012-18.

Despite those increases in crash rates, studies of whether marijuana itself makes drivers more likely to crash have been inconsistent. The latest one from IIHS — which used data collected from injured drivers in three emergency rooms in Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Sacramento, California — showed no increased crash risk associated with the drug, except when combined with alcohol.

Researchers conducted surveys for more than a year, interviewing and drug-testing more than 1,200 patients in total. The results showed that the crash-involved drivers weren’t any more likely to self-report or test positive for marijuana alone than other drivers who weren’t involved in a crash and were at the emergency room for reasons other than an injury.

Just 4 percent of the drivers involved in crashes self-reported marijuana by itself over the previous eight hours, compared with 9 percent of those who weren’t involved in a crash. Similarly, 13 percent of the crash-involved drivers tested positive for marijuana only, compared with 16 percent of the control set.

The reverse was true for the combined use of marijuana and alcohol, with 3 percent of the crash-involved drivers and fewer than 1 percent of the control drivers self-reporting use of both substances and 5 percent of the crash-involved drivers and fewer than 1 percent of the control drivers testing positive.

Those combined-use numbers could help explain why crash rates have increased. Legalization may be encouraging more people to drink and use marijuana together.

Studies comparing the simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana in states where marijuana is legal with states where it is still against the law will be needed to test this hypothesis. But some early evidence has already emerged that shows self-reports of past-month marijuana and alcohol use have increased, while the reported use of alcohol alone has decreased, especially in states where recreational use of marijuana is now legal.

nationally representative survey conducted recently by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that drivers who self-reported using both alcohol and marijuana were more likely than those who had only consumed alcohol to say they had driven while impaired and engaged in dangerous driving behaviors such as making aggressive maneuvers or speeding on residential streets.

Other factors related to how legalization has affected the way people use marijuana, rather than the physiological effects of the drug, may also be at play. For example, the larger spike in crash rates in Colorado — the first state to legalize recreational use — suggests a burst of enthusiasm that leveled off as the drug’s new status became more commonplace. The first few states to legalize marijuana even used the legalization as part of their tourism promotions.

It’s also possible that disparities in state and local regulations might be encouraging more travel by marijuana users. For example, marijuana users in counties that do not allow retail sales may drive to counties that do. Their increased travel could lead to more crashes even if their crash risk per mile traveled is no higher than that of other drivers.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through research and evaluation and through education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.

The Forensic Microbiome: The Invisible Traces We Leave Behind

“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him.” Edmond Locard (1877-1966), forensic science pioneer


Perhaps the most famous founding doctrine of forensic science was first stated early in the 20th century by French doctor Edmond Locard, a Sherlock Holmes afficionado who realized that physical evidence would be left at virtually every crime scene and would “bear mute witness” against a perpetrator. The evidence was certainly there, Locard said in developing his Exchange Principle. “Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”

For decades investigators have exploited Locard’s Exchange Principle, finding the forensic value of everything from footprints and tool marks to fingerprints and blood spatter. The forensic tools used in the hunt for evidence have improved over the decades as advanced microscopy, spectroscopy, genetic analysis, and rapid forensic database searches have become common.

But one significant advance in modern forensic science came in 2001, with the anthrax attacks in Florida, New York, and Washington, DC that began one week after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Letters containing deadly bacterial spores that caused anthrax were sent to several news media offices and two US senators. Five people died and 17 were infected, triggering one of the largest FBI investigations in history.

That investigation marked the birth of microbial forensics, according to Bruce Budowle, a geneticist with the University of North Texas Health Science Center who was with the FBI at the time. “There was an attack, there was forensic evidence, it was microbial evidence, and we were woefully unprepared for it,” Budowle said. “The technology at the time was limited, so we created the field of microbial forensics. It was dedicated to the analysis of microbial evidence related to a bioterrorist act or a bio-crime. It was very focused on using microbes or their by-products as a weapon.”

The FBI sought assistance from The Institute of Genome Research to sequence the spores for about $250,000 per sample, he said, and the particular strain of the bacteria was, years later, traced to a scientist working in a government lab in Maryland. The scientist committed suicide in 2008 after he became a suspect. A National Academy of Sciences report in 2011 confirmed that the anthrax was the Ames strain, but didn’t conclusively tie it to the scientist’s lab. The FBI said the microbial profile of the spores used in the attacks, plus other evidence, led them to conclude the suspect scientist had indeed been the perpetrator.

With the public focus on the anthrax attacks themselves, few people noticed that the horrific events were creating an entire new field of forensics, one that today has evolved to a point where microbes are on the verge of becoming a major tool not just in bioterrorism, but in forensic investigations on a broad scale.

The advent of massively parallel sequencing and other high throughput technologies promulgated by efforts from the Human Genome Project “opened up microbial forensics to a whole host of other applications,” Budowle said. Those applications go beyond human DNA evidence, expanding the trace evidence humans can leave behind at crime scenes to bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbial evidence. The growth of microbial forensics led Budowle to run three NIJ-supported webinars in 2016 on the basics and expansion of the field, as well as conduct NIJ-funded research, completed in 2019, on skin microbes that could be used for human identification.[1]

As with many research areas in science, the microbial forensics techniques developed and implemented over the past 20 years are applied beyond criminal investigations and are the same technologies now being used to identify and limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease. Researchers are finding the techniques that are gaining a foothold in criminal forensics are also useful in detecting the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Rob Knight, Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego, conducted early NIJ-supported microbiome research by evaluating the potential of using microbial cells on human skin as trace evidence for criminal investigations. That and similar research has continued, he said, but over the past months he has turned some of the lessons learned in microbial forensics to finding SARS-CoV-2 among the UCSD students.

In addition to a program that directly tests about a thousand people a day for COVID-19 on the UCSD campus, Knight said in December 2020, he has been monitoring the wastewater coming out of dormitories. “We see the viral signal in wastewater about a week before we see clinical signs,” he said. In a small wastewater pilot project, he was able to identify one person with COVID-19 in a dorm of about 500 students. “We were able to figure out where the signal was coming from before anyone had symptoms,” he said. A screening of the dorm found the infected student.

The swabbing techniques he developed while working on an NIJ-supported project on using the microbiome from human skin as trace evidence[2] have proved useful in swabbing classroom floors to find SARS-CoV-2 evidence. “It’s about distinction,” Knight said of searching for the SARS-CoV-2 virus among the other microbes in a classroom. After students leave a classroom, Knight’s researchers speculated that SARS-CoV-2 aerosol floating in the room would eventually settle onto the floor.

They determined that if they swabbed the floor at the center of the room, “you could use this to tell if someone infected with the virus had been in the classroom,” he said. That environmental signal of SARS-CoV-2 is then combined with testing of the students who had been in the room to determine which individual has the virus, he said. The process of finding the virus and then linking it back to a specific person “connects right through to the sorts of interests that led us into the NIJ [microbiome] projects,” he said.

The basis of Knight’s NIJ projects, along with the microbiome research of several other NIJ-supported scientists over the past 20 years, is the fact that each human carries a distinct microbial signature, a signature that is shed into the environment and left on objects that are touched. The microbiome was portrayed, unintentionally, by Charles Schultz in 1954 when he created the Pig Pen character in the Peanuts comic strip. Pig Pen is a boy who is perpetually surrounded by a cloud of dirt and dust, carrying it with him wherever he goes. Replace the dirt and dust with bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and Schultz seems a visionary. The number of microbes that make up those clouds are enormous but, as they are invisible to the eye, are hard for most people to comprehend.

University of Chicago surgeon and microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert, who has worked with Knight on NIJ-supported microbiome research, noted in a recent University of Chicago Magazine article that “by the time children learn to walk, they are enveloped, inside and out by a massive, invisible kaleidoscope of microorganisms, 100 trillion or so.”[3] The microbes live in mouths, nasal passages, on the skin, and, predominantly, in the digestive system. Most of them, fortunately, are friendly and do such things as help with digestion, build the immune system, and fight off pathogens.

The Human Microbiome Project, a National Institute of Health-supported consortium of universities and research laboratories that worked from 2007 to 2016, found that the microbial communities living “in association” with a human body include eukaryotes, archaea, bacteria, and viruses. The bacteria alone are typically ten times more prevalent on a body than human cells. Those “non-human” microbes have about a thousand times more genes than are present in the entire human genome, and about one to three percent of a person’s body mass is made up of the microbes. For a 200-pound adult, about two or three pounds comes from microorganisms that aren’t actually the person. For most people that means foreign microbes in and on their body weigh about as much as their brain.

“Some scientists have questioned, ‘Are we human or are we a microbiome?’” said Yong Jin Lee, a microbiologist at Albany State University, Albany, Ga. In his NIJ-supported research, “Surveying the Total Microbiome as Trace Evidence for Forensic Identification,” Lee investigated human traces left on items typically found in an office environment, such as cell and desk phones, keyboards, mice, mugs, pens, and staplers. “We looked at the variability between individuals, that we have different microorganisms from person-to-person,” he said. “We thought we could use that individual variability to identify a person. That was the hypothesis we had when we proposed our research to NIJ.”

The objects at seven individuals’ offices were swabbed using five different swabs made of cotton, rayon, polyester, and other material. After analyzing the microbiomes recovered, which included bacteria, fungi, and viruses, the researchers found that the human traces on touched objects “can be linked to the individuals who touched them and, in turn, serve as trace evidence for forensic identification.”

“We swabbed the objects trying to get some microbial signature, not focusing on the human DNA because whenever you touch an object you don’t necessarily leave human cells,” Lee said. “But we do leave our microorganisms on an object, so we swab to get the microbial DNA.” From that, he said, the researchers identified a microbial signature, or profile, that was unique to the individual who touched the object.

In Budowle’s NIJ-supported research on using the human microbiome for individual identification, he noted that the amount of human DNA deposited by touching an object is often very low, below the detection level of typical DNA analysis technologies. His researchers collected assorted bacterial species, as well as fungi and other microbes, from 51 individuals. The researchers developed skin microbiome genetic profiles, focused primarily on microbes on the hand, for human forensic identification. While the human DNA was often low on the samples, the microbial DNA was significantly higher.

“These studies attributed skin microbiome samples collected from the hand to their respective host with up to 100 percent accuracy,” Budowle wrote in a summary of his 2015 NIJ-supported skin colonies report.[4] “The hand is one of the most forensically-relevant sites, regarding touch DNA samples and as such this finding is significant for the potential use of skin microbiome profiling . . . to assist in criminal investigations, such as robberies, homicides, and sexual assaults.”

A realization that came quickly with investigations into touch DNA, whether human or microbe, is that it is difficult to look much beyond the last person who has touched an object. Knight, in one of his NIJ-supported research projects, had multiple people handle objects and then try to sort out how many had touched it, in what order, and identify them. That research serves as a warning to investigators not to touch anything at a crime scene. “Suppose you find something at a crime scene, and someone inadvertently picks it up,” he said. “Can you figure out who touched it before them? I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s a lot more challenging because whoever is the last person to handle an object tends to be the one leaving trace evidence on it.”

Knight discovered the problem in one of his early microbiome investigations when he examined microbes found on money. “We figured there would be a lot of interesting microbiology on money, and maybe it would depend on the country that the bills were from and the materials, paper or plastic, that the bills were made of.” What they found were a lot of microbes from the researcher who last handled the money, he said, not the people who had used the bills earlier or the country of origin. That work led to his touch investigations for NIJ and the same “last person” rule applied.

As part of the research, Budowle’s investigators also looked at a DNA phenomenon known as shedding. Some people naturally shed a lot of human DNA, while others shed very little. Most people are assumed to be somewhere in between. Budowle’s work found that there appears to be some slight correlation between the level of human DNA shedding and microbial DNA shedding, something that might be helpful to future investigations.

Beyond matching a microbiome trace to an individual as part of criminal investigations, how revealing can the millions of particles left on a surface be? “There is evidence that suggests the environment obviously will dictate to some degree the microbes you have,” Budowle said. And the stressors a person has experienced can also impact results. “Antibiotics can have an effect on a microbiome, as can disease.” Some microbes can be tougher, more stable and persistent than their counterpart human cells in the environment, he said. “So, you’re likely to be able to get that signature for longer, especially in a more degraded sample.”

For forensic microbes to become an important part of crime lab investigations, both Budowle and Knight said, gathering and analyzing samples will have to become inexpensive and routine. “If it’s $500,000 bucks a sample they’re not going to do it,” Knight said. “If it’s $5 a sample, then it could be routine.”

The largest obstacle now, he said, is the complexity of the data analysis. “One of the problems they are trying to solve is how do you put [microbiome evidence] into an easy-to-use interface,” he said. “You have these incredibly complex underlying data sets. So, what we need to do for microbes is the same sort of thing we do for sending photos or videos by phone. How do we take that noisy, highly technical data and do data processing on it so that people get a clear picture they can interpret?”

Budowle noted that crime labs are known for being resistant to change and that is often an appropriate reaction. “They have limited resources, they don’t have time to do research, and it takes a lot of effort and resources to have a technology validated and put into operations.”

However, “there is a portion of the forensic community that looks to the future,” he said. Advances are typically driven by need and support of the federal government, he said. The work on microbial forensics developed and advanced rapidly in response to the anthrax attacks, he said. In the process, expertise and standards of practice were developed, and that carried into further work on the microbiome, although originally as a tool to prepare for terrorist attacks.

“You really have to think of it on a five to 20-year kind of schedule because we have technologies that are coming out now that have been in the works for more than a decade,” Budowle said. “Rapid DNA (automated DNA processing) is an example of work that was started 15 years or more ago, and NIJ and DOD and Homeland Security funded some of these things. And we’re just seeing the benefits of that work.”

The advances in DNA sequencing technology have made much of microbial forensics possible,” he said, and more than a decade after it was first developed, “we are just starting to see the inroads that might go into crime labs today.”

Budowle doesn’t believe microbial DNA will supplant human DNA in the foreseeable future, “but with advances in sequencing and in bioinformatics, there may be more signature information out there that makes it appealing.” Microbiome research might progress faster, he noted, if focused centers of excellence were established across the country. The work is expensive, he said, and trying to do the work in individual labs slows progress.

As for all of the swabs for detecting microbes, many developed in NIJ-supported research, Knight said thousands of them were recently flown to the International Space Station (ISS) where they are being used to create a microbial map of the entire interior of the space station. “The idea is to look at the total microbiology of the ISS and see how much of that we can track to particular sources.” Of particular interest are microbes already found on the ISS that haven’t been seen on Earth. Knight said he believes they are not alien, but instead evolved from earlier microbes on the space station. “We can’t guarantee that they don’t exist on Earth,” he said, “but we can say that we haven’t seen them in even the very large data sets like the entire Earth microbiome project.”

Budowle recently looked at DNA profiles he generated back in the early 1980s. “We thought they were spectacular,” he said of those early profiles. “We’d perfected the process and they looked good. I look at them today and say, ’Oh, these are ugly.’”

The microbiome research is progressing and much of the analysis today is quite impressive, he said. “That might turn into a functional operation by the routine [crime] laboratory in the next handful of years.”

But based on his long experience, Budowle’s sure that 20 years from now, when microbiome researchers look back, “we’re going to say we were in the stone ages in 2020. It’s just the way things are.”


[note 1] Bruce Budowle, “Human Microbiome Species and Genes for Human Identification,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2015-NE-BX-K006, May 2019, NCJ 252942.

[note 2] Rob Knight et al., “Evaluating the Skin Microbiome as Trace Evidence,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2014-R2-CX-K411, June 2018, NCJ 251647.

[note 3] University of Chicago Magazine, Winter/21, Vol. 113, #2.

[note 4] Budowle, “Human Microbiome Species and Genes for Human Identification.”

Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Nomination Period is Open

Every day, public safety officers risk their lives to protect America’s citizens and communities. To honor that commitment, Congress passed The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, which created the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer. The medal is awarded annually by the President or Vice President to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.

A “public safety officer” is a person (living or deceased) who is serving or has served in a public agency, with or without compensation, as a firefighter; law enforcement officer, including a corrections, court, or civil defense officer; or emergency services officer, as determined by the U.S. Attorney General.

An act of valor is considered to be above and beyond the call of duty; and exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind along with unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life.


Nominating Someone to Receive the Medal of Valor

To receive the Medal of Valor, public safety officers must be nominated by the chief executive officer of their employing agencies, recommended by the bipartisan Medal of Valor Review Board, and cited by the Attorney General. PLEASE NOTE: The background of Medal of Valor nominees may be reviewed as part of the selection process.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) administers the Medal of Valor Program.

Nominations must be submitted through the online Medal of Valor Nomination System.

More Information

Law Officers: New Federal Gun Rule Ban Good for State

From the News Tribune

Two Mid-Missouri sheriffs agree a state bill banning police from enforcing federal gun rules is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of citizens.

Gov. Mike Parson this past weekend signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which would penalize local police departments if their officers enforce federal gun laws.

Under the bill, Missouri agencies that knowingly enforce any federal gun laws could be sued and fined $50,000 per violating officer.

“I was concerned with the first version of the bill because there were a lot of issues with it, and some of them were huge,” Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler told the News Tribune. “With any new bill, there are some unforeseen consequences that we could not support. It is still not a perfect bill, but in the end, the sheriffs were able to work with legislators and fix the language in a manner that we could support it.”

Wheeler and Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism, along with Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller, worked with members of the state Senate on a final version of the act that made it through the Legislature and on to the governor.

Most state and federal gun laws are the same, and federal law enforcement may enforce gun rules that are only in federal law.

“I think some people don’t realize U.S. marshals can still come in and take away weapons,” Wheeler said. “What this law says is we won’t help them. They can still come in and say they are going to do this, but my agency won’t do it.”

Republican lawmakers who worked to pass the bill have said they’re motivated by the possibility of new federal gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-led U.S. House.

But Democrats warned the measure unconstitutionally seeks to supersede federal laws and predicted it would be shot down by the courts.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade in a statement described the law as “radical, dangerous and obviously unconstitutional.”

“The new law even allows criminals who violate federal gun law to sue our local law enforcement officers for a minimum $50,000 fine if they in any way assist with federal investigations,” Quade said. “It quite literally defunds the police and gives that taxpayer money to convicted criminals.”

“Contrary to some political and dishonest rhetoric that was disseminated, most Missouri sheriffs, including myself, wholeheartedly support the Second Amendment,” Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said. “It was paramount, though, to ensure SAPA was passed to protect law-abiding citizens and not give refuge to criminals who need prosecuted for their bad acts.”

The Republican-led Legislature passed a similar bill in 2013 declaring any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri. It would have allowed state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal authorities who attempted to enforce those laws or anyone who published the identity of a gun owner.

That bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The Legislature fell just shy of overriding Nixon’s veto.

News Tribune reporter Jeff Haldiman and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Thriving in Law Enforcement

By Dr. John Azar-Dickens for Force Science News

Enter the police profession and risk higher divorce rates, alcoholism, suicide, PTSD, and early death. At least that’s what they told us at the academy.

I’m not convinced this is actually the case, but it is easy to believe when we watch fellow officers gain weight, lose health, drink more, sleep less, increase cynicism, and decrease job interest. We are taught that officers will be challenged just to survive the emotional toll of a law enforcement career—and that’s just the way it is. Except that it’s not.

In this article, I propose we move beyond the expectation that simply surviving is the best we can do. To that end, I offer habits that can dramatically increase the likelihood of surviving and thriving in law enforcement.

The Challenge

There is no doubt that law enforcement is challenging. In addition to the personal danger, officers can see more pain, suffering, and conscience-shocking depravity in one day than most people see in a lifetime. On top of that, it is hard to imagine another profession that falls under such enormous scrutiny from civic leaders, courts, and community groups. Controversial media and anti-police activist groups ensure officers are followed by cameras 24-7. Every word, movement, and decision may be recorded and available for strategic editing to support false and misleading narratives. Low pay, understaffing, politicized command staff, and erratic schedules can create work conditions that leave little time for mental and physical recovery.

Although admirable, the selfless service, duty first culture of policing, coupled with the strong independence of officers, can lead to an unwillingness to accept limitations, or admit when it’s time for help. In the short term, these qualities may allow officers to stay in the fight a bit longer, protect their communities for another day, or catch one more bad guy. But the benefits of selfless service can be short-lived, and the costs too great when officers fail to engage in necessary self-care.

The good news is that by committing to a habit of self-care, officers can not only survive their experiences, but they can also bring the best version of themselves to their community, their agency, and their family. In other words, they can thrive.

Habits of Health    

Exercise for thirty minutes, three times per week.

Physical movement can improve mood and a sense of well-being. While exercise may not always feel great while you are doing it, the psychological health benefits are well documented. You don’t have to train for a marathon or become a fitness model, simply find an activity that allows you to move your large muscle groups at a moderate pace. Aim to work out for a sustained 30-minute period, during which your exertion is greater than resting but not so great that you are gasping for air. A brisk walk is one of the best exercises we can do.

Discipline Your Eating.

Dieting is too often associated with short-term, extreme food and calorie restrictions. Instead of “dieting,” commit to studying how the foods you eat can impact your energy levels and body composition. Learn how your body type and energy needs influence your dietary requirements and then discipline yourself to stay within those limits more often than not.

You do not have to resort to hyper-restrictive, impossible eating regimens. “Yo-Yo dieting” is the weight swing that results from mindlessly overeating after engaging in restrictive, unrealistic diets. It is frustrating and often leads to weight gain that exceeds any weight lost from the diet. It’s not necessary to eat healthy all of the time. Instead, focus on being mindful of your eating and strike a balance between eating what you want and eating what you need. If you hit your favorite high-calorie wings spot for lunch, focus on reduced-calorie vegetables and lean meats in the evening.

Sleep for an average of 6-8 hours per night.

Sleep is critical for the proper functioning and restoration of physical and mental processes. Many of the problems experienced by law enforcement officers have been linked to sleep deprivation, including unhealthy weight management.

For many in law enforcement, getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. Even so, the goal is to average those numbers over a week. If you have to be awake for an extended period, find ways to add those missing hours back into your sleep on the other days or nights. Study the science of “sleep hygiene” and set the conditions that allow you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Engage in activities outside of law enforcement.

Police are frequently immersed in the darkest side of the human experience. It is easy to lose perspective, and that can take a toll. You must step out and enjoy the positive side of life. If you do not have hobbies outside of law enforcement, find some and focus on actively engaging yourself in these interests. Coaching kids sports may be just what you need.      

Monitor your emotions and talk with the experts.

Sadness, anxiety, and depression are normal, even for police. One test for deciding when to check in with mental health professionals is whether you feel these discomforting emotions (sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, etc.) during more days of the month than not. If these feelings are persistent, think of them as you would the “check engine” light on your vehicle. Don’t wait until emotional distress becomes a formal disorder. Be proactive. If you were having shortness of breath or chest pain, you would not wait to have a heart attack before seeking help.

If possible, identify a counselor or psychologist who specializes in work with law enforcement. Be sensitive to the limits of your primary care provider and carefully consider any recommendations that you use medication. Too often, medicine is a band-aid and can prevent you from identifying and implementing the healthy lifestyle habits that lead to long-term resiliency and improved performance. Medicine certainly has its place, but it should not be your only response.  

Schedule an annual consult with a police psychologist or counselor.

Be proactive. Just as you would get your teeth cleaned to avoid cavities, get in the habit of a routine “mental health cleaning.” Take time at least once a year to pause and assess your habits with a mental health professional. Ensure you are continuing to experience policing (and life) in the most productive manner possible.

Periodic health assessments can identify symptoms and risks of cumulative trauma. In addition to the effects of a single incident of trauma, an officer’s psychological well-being can be impacted by the cumulative effect of repeated exposure to traumatic events. Annual consults can help ensure you are effectively managing these insidious issues.

Monitor significant conflict with your family and talk with family counseling experts.

Law enforcement work can take a toll on families. Left unnoticed, the stressors can grow until they negatively impact and degrade relationships. Law enforcement work is hard on police families. Your partner and children know the dangers you face, they know how the media portrays you on a daily basis, and they are concerned about your well-being. Ignoring the problem, hoping it simply goes away, or accepting the harm as a necessary part of the profession is no longer expected or necessary.

If family conflict threatens to get physical or you are experiencing conflict more days out of the month than not, take advantage of family counseling experts. The key is to identify the stressors and conditions that lead to conflict early. It does no good to save your community and lose your family.


It is no longer acceptable to view the loss of families, mental health, and physical well-being as costs of serving in law enforcement. Technology and mental health strategies have advanced well beyond helping officers to simply survive their profession. Committing to simple, healthy habits, including making routine appointments with mental health professionals, ensures you’re bringing the best version of yourself to your family and community. Your commitment to serving others should include a commitment to care for yourself. It’s no longer enough to simply survive; it’s time to thrive.


About Author
Dr. John Azar-Dickens is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in Forensic Psychology and a Certified Force Science Analyst. In addition to instructing nationally for the Force Science Institute, Dr. Azar-Dickens provides professional debriefing support and psychological assistance to officers involved in force incidents. A widely published author and active expert witness, Dr. Azar-Dickens continues to serve as a sworn patrol officer with the City of Rome, GA Police Department.

Alzheimer’s Association Provides Free Training for First Responders

A poll conducted from May 20 to June 2 by asked:

Have you received training to recognize the signs of and appropriately respond to a person with dementia?

Of the 515 who participated, 51% responded “Yes” and 49% responded “No.”

The Alzheimer’s Association hopes to change that by providing free online training. 

As a first responder, it’s critical to understand how to best approach situations involving someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Approaching Alzheimer’s: First Responder Training program is a free, online training that features high-quality content in an interactive format, developed by the Alzheimer’s Association with input from first responders. It can be accessed:

  • Anytime of day, or night, accommodating for shift work and new hires
  • By anyone with access to a computer and the internet, making it easy to take from home or work

To promote the training within your department or agency, use this downloadable flyer to distribute or post in your breakroom.

The training also includes a downloadable tip sheet, Quick Tips for First Responders. This handy page can be folded to fit in a visor or emergency kit, and includes helpful phone numbers and strategies to help a person with dementia and their family.

Other resources for families in your community:

  • Safety information: Taking measures to ensure safety at all times can help prevent injuries, and it can help people with dementia feel relaxed and less overwhelmed. The Alzheimer’s Association safety section provides valuable information on safety in the home, driving and other safety issues.
  • MedicAlert® with 24/7 Wandering Support: A nationwide emergency response service for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia who wander or have a medical emergency.
  • Alzheimer’s Navigator®: Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s Navigator is an innovative online tool designed specifically for families, to create a personalized action plan and linking them to information, support and local resources.

  • For more information on the MedicAlert Law Enforcement Agency Portal (LEAP), click here. The LEAP program provides FREE enrollment into the MedicAlert + Safe Return program for people living with dementia who are registered through a law enforcement agency’s online portal.

More information on the free first responder course

The course has an interactive map that allows you to explore topics relevant to your role. Once you have completed all topics, you can print a certificate celebrating that you are Ready to Respond! Training topics include:

  • Briefing (Dementia Overview)
  • Wandering
  • Driving
  • Abuse and Neglect
  • Shoplifting
  • Disaster Response

Sign up here.

For a video explaining the program, watch this YouTube video.

Unsplash photo by Huy Phan

Justice Department Issues Proposed Rule and Model Legislation to Reduce Gun Violence

​From the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs:  New Steps Would Enhance Enforcement of the National Firearms Act and Aid States in Drafting “Extreme Risk Protection Order” Laws


Today, the Department of Justice announced two new steps to help address the continuing epidemic of gun violence affecting communities across the country.

First, the department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that makes clear that when individuals use accessories to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles, they must comply with the heightened regulations on those dangerous and easily concealable weapons.

Second, the department published model legislation to help states craft their own “extreme risk protection order” laws, sometimes called “red flag” laws. By sending the proposed rule to the Federal Register and publishing the model legislation today, the department has met the deadlines that the Attorney General announced alongside President Biden in April. 

“The Justice Department is determined to take concrete steps to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in our communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today we continue to deliver on our promise to help save lives while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. We welcome the opportunity to work with communities in the weeks and months ahead in our shared commitment to end gun violence.”

The department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would make clear that the statutory restrictions on short-barreled rifles apply to pistols that are equipped with certain stabilizing braces and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

The National Firearms Act imposes heightened regulations on short-barreled rifles because they are easily concealable, can cause great damage, and are more likely to be used to commit crimes. But companies now sell accessories that make it easy for people to convert pistols into these more dangerous weapons without going through the statute’s background check and registration requirements.

These requirements are important public safety measures because they regulate the transfer of these dangerous weapons and help ensure they do not end up in the wrong hands. The proposed rule would clarify when these attached accessories convert pistols into weapons covered by these heightened regulations.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to submit comments.  To view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, please see here.

The department also published model legislation and detailed commentary that will make it easier for states to craft “extreme risk protection orders” authorizing courts to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms.

By allowing family members or law e​​nforcement to intervene and to petition for these orders before warning signs turn into tragedy, “extreme risk protection orders” can save lives. They are also an evidence-based approach to the problem.

The model legislation, developed after consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, provides a framework that will help more states enact these sensible laws.

To read the model legislation, please see here.

To learn more about the rulemaking process, please see here.


Photo from