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Finishing Touches Put on Memorial Ahead of Vigil

The names have been engraved and the finishing touches are being put at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial ahead of the 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil in Washington, D.C. on May 13.

Craig Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, spoke to Officer.com about honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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"We're ready for our 25,000 or so guests that will be joining us during National Police Week this year," he said.

The names of 321 fallen officers added to the memorial will be read, including 120 officers killed in the line of duty in 2012.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be the keynote speaker and DHS Secretary Janet Napoliono and Madeline Neumann, the National President of Concerns of Police Survivors, are slated to take part in the ceremony at 8 p.m. on Monday night, which will stream live on Officer.com.

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On April 30, the annual Unveiling Ceremony was held at the memorial as the foundation continued to prepare the grounds for this coming week's events.

LODD Trends

There was a steep decrease in the number of line of duty last year compared to the previous year. There were 120 LODDs in 2012, compared to 169 in 2012.

"It's certainly is a tragedy for those departments, those families that have lost a loved one and our national grieves for them as well," Floyd said. "However, the good news -- the silver lining, if you will -- is that number is the lowest fatality figure we're had since 1959."

As of May 7, there were 40 fatalities, a number that is about on par with the 33 officers lost in the line of duty at the same point last year.

"There were fewer officers killed in the line of duty last year by far in recent times and it looks like this year, the numbers are staying low once again," Floyd said.

Over the last 40 years, he said that significant gains have been made, while the number of officers on duty has increased.

"The number of officers serving has more than doubled since the 1970s when we averaged about 230 officer deaths per year," he said. "Now we're averaging closer to 150 officers killed in the line of duty each year."

Law Enforcement Safety

Floyd said that a lot of attention has been put on the safety of law enforcement officers and that advancements in technology have helped prevent deaths.

"I think we're focused in laser-like fashion as a nation on the problem of law enforcement safety," he said. "The bottom line is, more officers are better trained, better equipped and more are wearing their bullet resistant vests."

Floyd pointed to a recent Police Executive Research Forum study that more than 90 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies are now requiring their officers to wear body armor while on patrol or engaging in dangerous duties.

"More and more officers are in fact wearing their vests; more agencies are requiring that to be the case. Vests save lives," he said. "We know that over the last 25 years or so, more than 3,000 law enforcement professionals' lives have been saved because they were wearing their body armor."

Floyd stressed that body armor doesn't just save officers from gunfire and referenced a DuPont study that found that more than half of the saves covered in their study attributed to body armor were non-firearms related.

"A lot of times that can be an automobile crash, preventing you from having that trauma when you strike the steering column," he said. "That vest will give you added protection."

Floyd also cited the increased use of less-lethal weapons in preventing line of duty deaths, saying that they "have given officers a choice besides shoot or don't shoot or kill or be killed."

OtherĀ Law Enforcement Issues

The criminal justice system is one area Floyd believes has gotten better, but is still in need of improvement.

"Keeping our worst of the worst criminals behind bars for longer periods of time, has improved, but I think we still have a ways to go there," he said.

"We've seen that more than 160 criminals were out on probation or parole for some other crime when they murdered a police officer over the last 10 years. That's about 16 officers per year who have been killed by criminals that should have been kept behind bars."

An area he said that has seen dramatic improvement over the years has been better emergency medical care.

"The way we treat shootings, the way we treat auto crash injuries has improved dramatically in recent times," he said. "As a result, those who might get injured who in the earlier times might have died from those injuries; they are now being saved because of the improvements in emergency medical care."

Officer.com will be covering all of the events leading up to and during National Police Week, which runs from May 12-18. For full coverage, Click Here.

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