At face value, it might seem reasonable to buy the premise that police work is dangerous – even deadly. Once the surface is scratched, though, the idea that police work is dangerous falls apart completely. Despite the rhetoric that there is a war on cops and the romantic idea that police officers are more John McLane than Officer Wiggins – the reality is that law enforcement work is remarkably risk-free. Here’s a list of 9 things about being a cop that might come as a surprise to the Yipee-ki-yay crowd.
Nonviolent crimes outnumber violent crimes almost 8 to 1. General disturbance crimes and crimes against property far outweigh the number of violent offenses that the police must respond to. Additionally, the violent crime category includes offenses such as robbery, burglary and larceny. The number of incidents involving actual violence is fewer than the number of offenses listed as violent crimes, and far lower than the number of overall incidences that the police respond to.
#2: Police officers are rarely assaulted
According to data compiled by the FBI, of the approximately 540,000 law enforcement officers reporting, just over 48,000 claimed they were assaulted. Of these, approximately 13,700 officers, or 2.5% of the total reporting population, were actually injured. This includes minor injuries. The number of assaults on law enforcement officers in the United States, has steadily decreased for the past ten years. Assaults are so low, in fact, that only 88 officers were injured with firearms or knives in 2014.
#3: It’s less dangerous being a police officer now than at any time in the history of law enforcement
Law enforcement as a profession is getting less and less dangerous by the year. According to the FBI, there were 41 officers feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2015. This number represents a 20% decrease since 2014 and a downward trend in police killings that has been steadily occurring for decades. The risk for officers in the field has decreased so steadily, in fact, that in 2013 the United States saw the fewest police deaths by firearms since 1887.
#4: In the majority of states, no officers die in the line of duty annually
There are actually very few states that experience the killings of police officers. For example, in 2014 over half of the 50 states did not experience any felonious killings of police. Over 40 states recorded 1 or less. Many of these states have very high populations of minorities including Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Illinois. The notion that black people forming communities leads to violence against the police is completely unfounded.
#5: Ambush shootings of police officers have not increased
There is an increase in coverage and connection of this coverage to rhetoric regarding the war on cops, but statistically, there is still a downward trend in the ambush shootings of police officers. Every year, the police can reasonably expect that anywhere from approximately 1 to 10 of the 1.1 million law enforcement officers will die in ambush style killings. There is no evidence to suggest, though, there is an upward trend in ambush style killings in recent years, and there is even less evidence to suggest the killings that are occurring are the result of directives from the Black Lives Matter movement. There is evidence to suggest, though, that there are political gains to be made by spreading these lies.
#6: Police officers are just about as likely to be killed by accident as they are on purpose
The number of officers killed in the line of duty in accidents is not that far off from the number of officers feloniously killed on the job. In 2014, 45 officers were killed accidentally. This includes incidences such as friendly fire, motorcycle accidents and automobile accidents. That same year, 10 officers died as a result of not wearing their seatbelts. This is only three less than the number of officers killed by black offenders. Seatbelts have clearly declared a war on cops.
#7: Law enforcement officer is not one of the most dangerous jobs in the US
There are a number of jobs with a high risk of fatality. The most dangerous jobsinclude fishers, loggers, pilots and roofers, but police officer isn’t even among the top 10. In the most recent reports, police officer came in at number 15, in between general maintenance workers and grounds maintenance workers. Law enforcement also ranks 5 spots behind taxi drivers and 10 spots behind farmers.
#8: There is no war on cops
The myth goes like this: black people are violent criminals. This is why the police have to use violence in black communities. Further, Black Lives Matter has declared a War on Cops, which has increased violence against police officers and put even more “Blue lives” at risk. Accordingly, more laws should be passed to protect the police and criminalize the black community.
This argument, which was written by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, funded through the alt-right, published through a proud “Anglo-American” publishing company and diffused to the public through conservative media channels such as FOX News – is total bullshit.
This fake war on cops is designed to give people with racist tendencies a language to blame black people in general, and the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, for the brutalization they face at the hands of the police. There is absolutely no truth behind this rhetoric, but for those that cling to a racist and fictional world where black people are the enemy – it’s not a big leap to get them to buy that a War on Cops exists.
#9: There’s a lot you can do to stop police brutality
The police are not entirely without boundaries. The policies and practices that currently guide police behavior function to encourage police brutality, not prevent it. But this can change - and there are numerous organizations engaged in the work to make it happen.
There are efforts to overhaul the organization of law enforcement in the United States from the ground up. There are efforts to change the laws that protect police officers that kill community members. There are efforts to disarm the police entirely, or according to type of crime they are trained to respond to. There are efforts to prevent police from being used as social workers and school administrators. There are efforts to create alternatives to police. There are efforts to improve datacollection especially on other target minority communities such as people living with disabilities, the homeless, the poor, the indigenous, Latinos, members of the LGBTQIA community, members of the Muslim community, immigrants and other historically marginalized groups and those living at their intersections.
In addition to, and often preceding the work of Black Lives Matter, organizations such as the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy, POOR Magazine, Krip-Hop World-Wide, the Idriss Stelley Foundation, Western Regional Advocacy Project, the National Association Against Police Brutality, Disarm the Police in America, Native Lives Matter, the Audrey Lorde Project, and HOMEY are working to protect their communities from their local police departments and end police brutality nationwide. These organizations need and deserve our support and defense.
Laws can be rewritten. Law enforcement can be reorganized. Police brutality can be stopped. Confronting the idea that the police are under threat of death at every moment is a large part of that work.
The myth that police work is constantly and overwhelmingly life threatening is very important to those criminalizing target community groups, fighting against anti-brutality groups, passing laws that allow murderers with badges to walk free, and increasing the militarization of law enforcement across the country. It does nothing, though, to help law enforcement serve and protect members of the community. In fact, it does more to increase the idea that there are communities that don’t deserve service and protection.
The police are not the victims of systematic violence. The communities that the police are paid to protect and serve are not the enemy. There is no war on cops, and being a cop really isn’t the most dangerous job you can have. If police officers want to feel safer in the field, they should start buckling up their seat belts and stop pretending that the people they are paid to serve and protect are the enemy.