by Claire Bernish
No matter what politicians and police unions would have you believe, police are safer now than they have been in decades — the number of targeted killings of law enforcement continues to decline each year.
Set aside whatever bias you might harbor on the issue of police violence and violence against police — it’s time to examine the facts.
Statistics prove, even if politicians like former congressman Joe Walsh refuse to face facts, the ‘war on cops’ is pure fiction
But politicians would prefer you not know the truth since that wouldn’t further their preferred narrative of misguided activists upset over police killing civilians — and would prevent effective reform through demilitarization or other means, instead of an escalation in police authoritarianism.
Cited by the Chicago Tribune, Texas congressman Roger Williams asserted the cold-blooded murders of five police officers in Dallas were sparked by “the spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our President.”
Equally misguided Walsh chillingly tweeted a series of murky threats following Dallas, though since deleted, he continues to defend — most notoriously:
“This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
According to statistics, however, it appears the militarized, trigger-happy, and altogether over-zealous police are coming after real America — the civilians who, like Philando Castile, complied with the law as much as humanly possible.
The Officer Down Memorial Page — devoted solely to “remembering all of law enforcement’s heroes” — itself fleshes out the absurdity in claiming there is an active war on cops.
During Reagan’s 80s, an average of 101 officers were purposely targeted and slain each year. Under his successor, George H. W. Bush, that average dropped to 90. With Clinton, it fell again, to 81. Under George W. Bush, 72. Through the end of 2015, the number of police killed murders averages 62 per year.
Following those averages, the Tribune posited, the number would have remained steady — even including Dallas — which offers a telling statistic in itself: The five murdered officers increased the statistic by 44 percent. Excluding Dallas, the “year-over-year” increase would have been a paltry 17 percent.
Five cold-blooded killings skewed the figures that much because the police aren’t being purposely snuffed out in record numbers — no matter who wants you to think they are.
“Those falling fatality numbers aren’t simply a function of better medical care for injured officers: overall assaults on officers are down too,” the Tribune explained. “In 1988, the last year of the Reagan administration, there were 15.9 assaults for every 100 sworn law enforcement officers according to the FBI. In 2000, at the end of the Clinton administration, there were 12.7 assaults for every 100 officers. By the end of the Bush administration that number fell further to 11.3. Under Obama in 2014, the most recent year for which the FBI has data, that number further fell to 9.0.”
Don’t mistake the parsing of fact for validation or acceptance of murder or assault against police or anyone else, either — any such aggressive and needless violence cannot be justified, period. But cold facts don’t lie.
What Walsh and Williams forget in posturing the need to protect the ‘boys in blue’ is rampant disregard for human life an increasingly belligerent U.S. law enforcement body, as a whole, appears to have adopted as unspoken policy.
Use of deadly force by police has exploded in recent years — and not just because incidents now pepper national headlines and are captured by distraught and wary citizens with cellphones.
Keeping the caveat in mind killings by police aren’t required to be reported in a national database, coupled with wonky methods local and state law enforcement employ in reporting their own statistics regarding civilian deaths by officers, the numbers are indeed on the rise.
As the Washington Post details in its ongoing study of the use of deadly force, “the number of fatal shootings by officers increased from 465 in the first six months of last year to 491 for the same period this year,” as of July 7. And that number appears to be quite the lowball compared to the Guardian’s ongoing project, The Counted, tracking the same killings.
At the time of publishing, The Counted lists 571 people slain by police in 2016, alone — and 1,146 such deaths in 2015. But even that figure undercuts the grassroots tallying effort by the website, Killed By Police, which yesterday put the figure even higher at 613.
Whose war is it, anyway?
If you listen to screeds from law enforcement devotees, police have dangerous jobs and they must heed threats from errant civilians hell bent on killing cops.
But the meshwork of holes the ‘dangerous job’ theory don’t hold the water of truth, either, considering stats for 2014, the most recent — law enforcement didn’t make the top ten most dangerous jobs in America. Taxi drivers, construction supervisors, refuse and recycling workers, and even maintenance workers all rank higher on the list of perilous jobs than police — law enforcement ranked fifteenth.
In the same vein, many of the same politicians would like to fearmonger that the fictitious war on cops has triggered a crime epidemic. Again, false — violent crime has plummeted since the 1990s, according to the FBI, and continues in the same downward direction.
Appeals to emotion might be an effective means to stir followers to a narrative, but the arguments mark both logical and factual fallacies. Before accepting increasingly tough legislation aimed at protecting law enforcement — whose dangerous parallel, the erosion of rights and liberties, concurrently follows — remember to explore statistics and facts, employ logic, and allow cooler heads to prevail.
Because, after all, no matter how you slice it, there is no war on cops.