I know this is sure to outrage a lot of people on the left and the right, but the data suggest that police work isn’t all that dangerous when you consider the number of police fatalities and assaults over the past 100 years.
I’m not saying that being a police officer is the safest job in the world or anything. It definitely has the potential of being an extremely dangerous position to fill, especially in big cities with gangs.
I think the point of bringing this up is to counter the excuses that people come up with to justify the brutish and thuggish behavior we find so prevalent in police departments. We’re supposed to give them a break if they kill or injure an innocent person, all because “their job is dangerous.” Well, it very well may be dangerous. But I didn’t force them to sign up. No one did. That was their decision. And not only that, much of the violence police find themselves in the middle of (or initiating) has to do with enforcing really stupid laws.
If they really want the job, and if they really take it seriously, they have to abide by the same laws that they enforce on everyone else. They have to take their oath to the Constitution seriously. They have to comply with the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment, the 5th Amendment. The law’s the law, as inconvenient as it might be sometimes to the government. After all, the Constitution is there to put chains on the government, not the people.
Policing has been getting safer for 20 years. In terms of raw number of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for cops since World War II. If we look at the rate of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for police in well over a century. At the current pace, we can expect to see a 17 percent increase in on the job law enforcement fatalities this year over last year. That would put the total number of police officers who die on the job this year at 117, making 2014 the second safest year for cops in terms of raw fatalities since 1959. It would also put 2014 as the safest year for fatality rates in over a century. You’re more likely to be murdered simply by living in about half of the largest cities in America than you are while working as a police officer.
The point here is not to diminish the deaths of those officers who have been killed on the job. But some media outlets, police leaders, and law enforcement organizations continue to push the false narrative that policing is getting more dangerous, that cops are working in the equivalent of war zones, and so on. As I pointed out a couple of posts earlier this week, this almost certainly affects how police officers approach their jobs, and the way they interact with people day to day. A police officer who understands that his job is relatively safe and that America is getting safer is less likely to see threats were none exist, or to turn to lethal force when it isn’t merited. A cop who is constantly told that his job is dangerous and that every interaction with a citizen could be his last will naturally be more likely to reach for his weapon when it isn’t necessary.
I think he’s exactly right. We definitely don’t want to dismiss any police fatalities. It’s terrible when anyone is murdered. But all around us, in the media, in crime dramas on TV, in movies, we’re taught that the police are these sacrificial civil servants who have to deal with murderous and barbaric civilians everyday, as if America is one big war zone. That very attitude is what is driving the militarization of police. (Well, that and the fact that they get all their hand-me-down war toys for free from the Department of Defense.) And it’s that very attitude that makes so many of us offer excuses for their brutish behavior. In reality, there are many more dangerous jobs than policing.
According to a Forbes article, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported these as the top ten deadliest jobs:
- Logging workers
- Fishers and related fishing workers
- Aircraft pilot and flight engineers
- Structural iron and steel workers
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers
- Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
- Construction laborers
Policing didn’t even make it to the top ten. And whenever any of those people above die in the “line of duty,” they don’t get to close down half a city just to have a funeral. Just saying.