In my Monday column debunking the “war on cops” meme currently working its way through the media, I noted that fatal attacks on police officer deaths have dropped pretty dramatically over the last 25-30 years. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to this mostly unfortunate discussion of the column at an online forum for police officers. The thread itself gets pretty vicious. But one poster in that thread points out that if you look at numbers from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted database, non-fatal assaults on police officers are in decline as well.
A couple points. First, these figures are reported assaults, not convictions. Second, in my column I wrote that there are 850,000 cops on the beat. I got that figure from the Fraternal Order of Police. I suspect the variation is due to differing interpretations of who qualifies as a police officer. But if the figure for officers emloyed is actually higher than what you see in the table, then the percentage of police officers assaulted will be lower.
Overall, though, non-fatal assaults against law enforcement officers are in decline. Which means the downward trend in fatalities isn’t necessarily due to better body armor, bulletproof vests or other police equipment.
The Internet, cell phone cameras, and video have made police more accountable and brought more exposure to bad cops. I don’t doubt that this has fostered more skepticism of police authority, and even resentment at how infrequently bad actors held accountable. But there’s just no evidence that more criticism of law enforcement, less respect for authority, or rising anti-government sentiment are manifesting as increased violence against police officers.