Is There a War on Cops?
We read a variety of crime related articles and posts every day from groups ranging from supporters of law enforcement to those sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement. As criminal justice veterans, we are probably more in tune with those wearing a badge.
We created a series of articles on Crime in America.Net after the Denver and Baton Rouge police murders and we have consistently warned readers that cops are leaving the job in large numbers or going elsewhere or that recruiting police officers is becoming harder than ever.
We are supporters of law enforcement while recognizing that all voices need to be heard, respected and understood.
We also understand the frustration that police officers are going through. Social media is awash with examples of assaults on police officers and places refusing to serve them food. It’s not pretty.
Are we willing to paint all police officers with a broad brush? It seems that we are. Citing recent statements from people in the entertainment industry condemning cops would take another 1,000 words. Gallup reported in 2015 that public perceptions of police officers had reached its lowest point in 22 years.
So given the current climate, why would anyone be willing to be a police officer? If people refuse to serve as officers or are reluctant to meaningfully engage in our cities, the consequences are enormous.
But we also understand that there is a considerable amount of support for the overwhelming number of police officers who do their jobs with quiet humility and grace every day.
We Return to the Question
So we return to the question, is there a war on cops?
There may be a reevaluation of the role of law enforcement due to questionable police shootings, and there will always be detractors who will question the role of cops. The endless examples of people taking video of officers while making mundane arrests doesn’t help. If anyone questions the “lack of engagement,” (i.e., the Ferguson or Baltimore effects) of officers and the increase in violent crime in some (not all) cities throughout the country, they are delusional.
But a war on cops? There may be a psychological “war,” (more of a national reevaluation) but a physical “war” based on the numbers below is overstating the case. The 1920s were the deadliest decade in law enforcement history, when a total of 2,437 officers died, or an average of almost 243 each year. The deadliest year in law enforcement history was 1930, when 304 officers were killed. That figure dropped dramatically in the 1990s, to an average of 162 per year.
Firearms-related fatalities (32) spiked 78 percent in the first half of 2016 from 18 during the same period last year, but those are based on small numbers (yes, every death of a police officer is monumentally important). Small numbers are subject to change and even slight variations create large percentages increases or decreases. Thus using the term, “war” is not justified, or not justified yet.
If the trend continues, the term may be appropriate, especially if we have additional (God forbid) ambush homicides.
Social media is a major source of news for the country and Facebook and other social platforms are filled to the brim with people buying cops meals to average citizens purchasing and displaying symbols of support for law enforcement. Lemonade stands are sprouting up with kids raising money as support. Cop-friendly Facebook posts are getting millions of likes. The list goes on.
So the bottom line is that we are going through a period of self-examination as to what we want from cops. The tiny percentage of police officers performing incredibly stupid or illegal acts of violence and being recorded on smartphones is causing us to question and ponder.
The Black Lives Matter folks (per survey research) have the broad support of African Americans and strong backing of many non-African Americans. We are having a national conversation, and while we don’t like what some (many?) are saying or doing, dialog is both inevitable and necessary.
What we are going through is transitory. It’s undoubtedly tragic and heartrending, but police officers have seen worse throughout our history. Law enforcement will see better days. We within the criminal justice community will improve. Cops will return to their customary lofty status as being (per survey research) one of the most respected institutions in America. It’s just a matter of time, meaningful reflection and dedication to improvement.
America owes a great debt to the overwhelming number of officers who are dedicated to our safety. While it may not seem like it now, America understands that when all hell breaks lose, we depend on police officers to protect us.
Background-Associated Press: Shooting Deaths of Police Are Up 78% This Year
Shooting deaths of law enforcement officers spiked 78 percent in the first half of 2016 compared with last year, including an alarming increase in ambush-style assaults like the ones that killed eight officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the Associated Press reports. However, data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that firearms-related deaths of officers in the line of duty are still much lower than they were during previous decades like the 1970s. Thirty-two officers died in firearms-related incidents so far this year, including 14 that were ambush-style attacks. During the same period last year, 18 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty including three that were considered ambush attacks. “That’s a very alarming, shocking increase in the number of officers who are being literally assassinated because of the uniform they wear and the job that they do,” said the fund’s Craig Floyd.
The organization usually releases a mid-year report tracking incidents for the year’s first half, but decided to extend the period due to the July attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge against police officers. A total of 67 officers have died in the line of duty so far in 2016. That includes officers who died in traffic accidents, fatal falls, or airplane crashes. Floyd said that during the 1970s, there was an average of 127 officers shot and killed yearly; during the last ten years through 2015, the average was 52. He cited the reduction in violent crime in recent decades and said officers have benefited from the widespread introduction of body armor and improved trauma care if they do get shot. Associated Press
Background-The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: Firearm Fatalities Increase 78 Percent
Ambush killings of officers increased more than 300 percent this year
Firearms-related fatalities (32) spiked 78 percent in the first half of this year from 18 during the same period last year. Of particular concern, ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers have dramatically increased more than 300 percent from the same period in 2015. Fourteen officers were shot and killed in ambushes, seven officers were killed stopping a suspicious person and five officers were killed while executing a tactical arrest or high-risk warrants.
Of particular concern, ambush-style killings of law enforcement officers have dramatically increased more than 300 percent from the same period in 2015. Fourteen officers were shot and killed in ambushes, seven officers were killed stopping a suspicious person and five officers were killed while executing a tactical arrest or high-risk warrants. Additional circumstances are included in the 2016 Mid-Year Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report.
Traffic-related incidents were the second leading cause of officer fatalities, with 24 officers killed during the reporting period—a 17 percent decrease over the same period last year (29). Thirteen officers were killed in automobile crashes involving another vehicle; five officers were struck while outside of their vehicle; four officers were killed in motorcycle crashes and two officers were killed in single-vehicle crashes. The two single-vehicle crashes are a 78 percent decrease from nine during the same period last year—an early indication that progress is being made reducing these preventable deaths.
Eleven officers died due to other causes such as job-related illnesses in the first half of 2016, compared to 16 officer deaths during the same time last year—a 31 percent decrease. Heart attacks were the cause of six officer deaths, two officers fell to their death, one officer died in an aircraft crash, one officer was beaten to death and one officer drowned.
Texas led all states with 13 officer fatalities; followed by Louisiana with seven officer deaths. California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia all lost three officers thus far in 2016.
A copy of the full report, “2016 Mid-Year Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Report,” is available at www.LawMemorial.org/FatalitiesReport.
Key Data about the Profession
- There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States, which is the highest figure ever.
- Crime fighting has taken its toll. Since the first recorded police death in 1791, there have been over 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Currently, there are 20,789 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
- A total of 1,439 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 61 hours or 144 per year. There were 123 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2015.
- There have been 15,725 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2014, resulting in 13,824 injuries.
- The 1920s were the deadliest decade in law enforcement history, when a total of 2,437 officers died, or an average of almost 243 each year. The deadliest year in law enforcement history was 1930, when 304 officers were killed. That figure dropped dramatically in the 1990s, to an average of 162 per year.
- The deadliest day in law enforcement history was September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed while responding to the terrorist attacks on America.
- New York City has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other department, with 705 deaths. Texas has lost 1,682 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.
- There are 1,102 federal officers listed on the Memorial, as well as 668 correctional officers and 36 military law enforcement officers.
About the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private non-profit organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve. The Memorial Fund maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, which contains the names of 20,789 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The Memorial Fund is now working to create the National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibitions, historical artifacts and extensive educational programming. For more information, visit www.LawMemorial.org.
Excerpt from the Associated Press from The Crime Report at http://thecrimereport.org/.
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