You might remember that about this time last year, media outlets, police groups, even Attorney General Eric Holder were up in arms over an alleged “war on cops” taking place all across the fruited plains. In April of last year, on-the-job officer deaths were up 20 percent from the same point in 2010. The media went nuts, pointing an accusatory finger at anti-government rhetoric, a “don’t tread on me” mentality, anti-cop Internet sites, and gun ownership.
But some wise folks (ahem) didn’t buy into the hype. On-the-job cop deaths had been falling for 20 years. Those numbers couldn’t keep dropping forever. And the claims of some sort of surge in violent anti-cop, anti-government anger were belied by the fact that non-fatal assaults on police officers were also dropping.
In retrospect, those of us who were skeptical of the hysterical headlines look to have been correct. While January and February of last year saw a few unusual mass shootings of multiple police officers, those months appear to have been anomalies. Police deaths in the remaining months of 2011 were mostly on par with prior years.
So what about this year? Police officer deaths are down 48 percent from last year. Firearms deaths specifically are down 58 percent. And as the watchdog blog Clark County Criminal Cops points out, a significant number of the firearms deaths were actually cops who were shot by other cops.
The police watchdog websites are still out there. The Tea Party and “Don’t Tread on Me” patriot movements are still going strong. You also now have the Occupy movements, which foment a lot of anti-police sentiment (in many cases, justifiably). Gun owners certainly haven’t been melting down their weapons en masse. And yet officer fatalities and violence against police officers have nosedived. In fact, if the current pace keeps up, we’ll actually hit an all-time low in police fatalities this year. And these are just the raw numbers. They aren’t percentages of the total police force (which has been growing), or police deaths in comparison to deaths in the larger population.
All worth keeping in mind should the numbers slightly tick up again—as any statistics pulled from a large population of people are bound to do from time to time—and the media and police groups again start placing blame, and calling for us to grant the police more powers, less oversight, and bigger guns.