The “War on Cops” That Wasn’t. And Still Isn’t.

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

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.

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39 Responses to “The “War on Cops” That Wasn’t. And Still Isn’t.”

  1. #1 |  The “War on Cops” That Wasn’t. And Still Isn’t. « When Tennessee Pigs Fly | 

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  2. #2 |  John P. | 

    Cops are just whinny little bitches… with dick problems.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that more cops die each year from traffic fatalities, then AAA reported that cops are most often the at fault drivers in accidents, because they are sometimes the worst offenders not he road…

    If you also look at the lists of cops reported as line of duty deaths, it includes things as cops dying from heart attacks on duty, one died from an allergic reaction to bee stings, another was hit by a train, two died in a helicopter crash… but the cops, want all of us to think every single one of them was gunned down by some heavily armed criminal insurgent… when the reality could not be farther from it.

    Cops lie, even the dead one.

  3. #3 |  Bobby Black | 

    They have been throwing in off-the-job deaths, natural death, cops in accidents not involving job duties, and this inflation has been used to justify them buying the bearkats, para-military gear, advanced training and of course justifying the newest “shoot first, second,hell empty your clips, and say you wer ein fear for the lives of you and your fellow officers who just want to be able to go home to their families” and let the unions sort it out, find you acted within proper guidelines and we all get extra money from the government doles that come with their telethon methods of raising revenues. What IS up, is cops killing unarmed people, pets and bystanders, the elimination of police oversight committees by police vote that somehow trumps the oversight committees and the city councils that implement them. The new age cop is highly under-trained, over-armed, overly paranoid, and above and beyond the laws they claim to enforce. They lock step behind each other and arrest, harass and beat the populous into submission, and seem to be at the call of the rich and privileged as bodyguards and shock troops. They are in utter dismay that we don;t trust them after all their actions belie this fact, and think that harsher suppression will bring us to heel, when it just has the opposite effect, which raises them more money when they are met with distrust, hostility and contempt. One wonders what the breaking point will be. What death of what innocent will set off the firestorm they are self fulfilling with their methods?

  4. #4 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    What I would like to know is what percentage of police deaths take place in ill-judged aggressive entry raids where the police have intentionally created a high risk environment where none existed? And of those, how many were “Own Goals”?

    Why do I think that those stats might be a wee bit hard to come by, hmmm?

  5. #5 |  BGHS1986 | 

    John, Last year a cop was killed in a violent confrontation with a dairy cow, but at least he was on duty at the time.

    The most ridiculous has to be Montgomery County Police officer Bill Talbert passed away on January 27, 2012, 28 years after he retired. Officer Talbert contracted Hep C following a blood transfusion after being injured by a drunk driver on June 30, 1983.

    He took an early medical retirement the next year, his 13th on the force, because he was too ill to to any will work. It was a good thing to, since it was a mere three decades later when he died. Talbert almost spent 300% more time receiving his medical pension than he was an active member of the force.

  6. #6 |  AlgerHiss | 

    The precise site for “officer down” hype is “”. They have a category of demise called “animal related”. Included is…..bee stings. Yes, I said bee stings. A freak’n bee sting.

    Read the death of this guy, then ponder just how far this crowd will go to pat themselves on the back:

    That this fellow was “Ohio State Highway Patrol” makes it triple hype, as that bunch is over the top in blowing their tails like a peacock.

  7. #7 |  Roark | 

    Does the decline in police deaths have anything to do with local police forces morphing into para-military units? Once the drones are fully deployed, it should drop to zero. By that time, governors and mayors will probably have the same power to terminate proles that the president claims.

  8. #8 |  The Crip Bandit | 

    #3, I don’t know that they are undertrained. I would say they are getting the wrong training and a lot of it.

    #6, Don’t slight bee stings. Yes it is a freak chance, but if a person is allergic and doesn’t know it they can kill rather quickly.

  9. #9 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Could fewer deaths have anything to do with more armor?

  10. #10 |  jb | 

    Nice racket they have there…

    “We need more weapons and lying to protect us.”

    “The more weapons and lying make people not like you.”

    “OMG people are anti-police! There’s a war on cops! We need even more weapons and lying to protect us now!”

    Rinse and repeat.

  11. #11 |  marco73 | 

    Passing away while in uniform usually earns a larger death benefit from the state for the surviving family.
    One case I am familiar with, a Highway Patrolman passed away at Patrol headquarters during a basketball game from an undiagnosed heart problem. Because he had a t-shirt with a Patrol logo, the union claimed he had died in uniform and on duty. The state sure wasn’t going to fight that, so full benefits all around.

    As much as they want to throw in every death possible, being a cop still isn’t as dangerous as being a garbage man.

  12. #12 |  Mike | 

    The one part that concerns me… does this mean the jackboot tactics of running a swat team in full armor to serve minor warrants are actually increasing officer safety?

  13. #13 |  Mike | 

    Civilian war on police? No.
    Police war on civilians? Yes.

  14. #14 |  Warlord | 

    With the militarily build up of local cops comes a lack of respect from the
    citizenry it is exercised upon.

  15. #15 |  Therooster | 

    I am on my second fraudulent DUI, I was convinced for years the first was legit till I got this second one here in Washington. After being stalked by several officers I was assaulted and given a fake breath test. The man who calibrated the B/T machine also perjured himself about skidding to a stop in my lane in front of me and that he was even on patrol or in his issued cruiser. The judge who claims to be “neutral” has used her position to escape criminal charges and lets HER FRIENDS kids off. Dismissed without prejudice on several occasions. So after waiting 2 years for a trial it will be next week, I get to fire my public defender and present my own defense. I know the law now and I also know they have VIOLATED every one of my god given rights.

  16. #16 |  Mannie | 

    One thing I’ve noticed is that more cops die each year from traffic fatalities

    A couple of years ago, I was walking down the street having a conversation with a cop who happened to be going the same way. Someone mentioned crazy drivers, a topic near and dear to anyone who works around traffic. I made the comment, “The most dangerous thing you can do, is to drive to the gunfight.”

    He gave me a weird look, then replied, “Dammit, you may be right.”

  17. #17 |  croaker | 

    War on cops? It could become a self-fulflling prophecy.

  18. #18 |  John | 

    Found in Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow (I forget who he’s quoting): “if a court case hinges on regression to the mean, the side that has to explain this to the jury
    will lose.”

    In all OMG DEATHS ON RISE FREAK THE FUCK OUT stories, just remember that.

  19. #19 |  kid handsome | 

    It’s Sunday evening. I need my dog fix.

  20. #20 |  JdL | 

    Even if the cops were not LYING about this, just like they LIE about everything else, it’s pretty pathetic that they don’t understand that they’re writing their own scripts with their behavior. They beat up, frame, and murder people with impunity, and it’s happening more and more every day. Sooner or later, I’m convinced that citizens WILL get fed up and start blowing away any cops they see, whenever the opportunity arises. When that happens, idiot cops will have only themselves to blame.

  21. #21 |  Bergman | 

    Cops used to be community heroes. The white hats, the Good Guys. People seeing a hero endangered would risk their lives to come to the hero’s aid.

    Now? Cops antagonize the people to the extent that to quite a few citizens, police are no different than any other criminal gang. Just more pervasive and better armed.

    Personally, if I were in a firefight and about to get overwhelmed, I’d rather have 100 citizens running to my aid, than armor that will save my life from 99 out of 100 incoming bullets.

    Because odds are, if those 100 citizens side with the lesser of two evils and start shooting at the cops, they probably have more than 1 bullet each…

  22. #22 |  CSD | 

    “Fatalities linked to automobile accidents were the primary cause of Georgia’s officer deaths last year, accounting for six of the 10.”

  23. #23 |  CSD | 

    Ankle injury induced heart attack a month later?

    Incident Date: 12/23/2011

    “During the ensuing struggle Officer Hardin injured his ankle.”

    On January 20th, 2012,… They immediately initiated CPR but were unable to revive him.

    The coroner subsequently ruled his death a homicide and charges are pending against the inmate who assaulted him.

  24. #24 |  Goober | 

    They have to keep forwarding the narrative, otherwise us mundanes might start asking questions about why so many of us are getting shot and killed when we are unarmed.

    @ #23 CSD – That entire thing is so ludicrous that it struck me as a parody at first. I thought for sure that you’d been drawn in by a fake news site like the Onion or something. Only in the real world could we have something that ludicrous become a reality.

  25. #25 |  ClubMedSux | 

    A purely technical point… You note that we’re on pace for the lowest number of police fatalities ever. If police fatalities parallel overall homicides, I suspect they peak in the summer and thus it’s not very accurate to project three months of data onto the entire year. I still agree with your overall point, but my inner statistician feels compelled to point that out.

  26. #26 |  JOR | 

    Cops aren’t really better behaved than they used to be. But there are a few things that make it seem like they’ve gotten worse.

    1) They used to be better at restricting their banditry and harassment to black people and other untouchables. They’ve become less selective in their depredations.

    2) Black people and other untouchables are still disproportionately targeted by the system but are relatively less despised nowadays in public opinion. Lily-white libertoids, conservatives, and respectable leftists are more likely to sympathize with darker-hued or otherwise socially marginalized victims of police mendacity than they once were, and less likely to brush it off with victim-blaming or thoughtless excuse-making. It looks to privileged folks like this is some kind of scary new trend of racism and brutish thuggery, etc.. The untouchables, of course, know better.

    3) There are more cameras in the hands of non-cops.

    4) Thanks largely to 3, we all know they very often lie. The scary thing is that they lie so often and often so stupidly – even at times when they would better serve their own interests (for better or worse) by just telling the truth – that this is something they had to have spent decades inculcating in an environment that favored it (i.e. when few people had cameras). It has to be institutional, cultural, for it to still exist at this point with so much momentum behind it. A big reason it seemed for so long that cops were better behaved, more professional, etc. was because everyone (and by everyone I mean the relatively privileged) swallowed their bullshit like good little vegetables.

  27. #27 |  CyniCAl | 

    #16 | Mannie — “A couple of years ago, I was walking down the street having a conversation with a cop…”

    Holy shit Mannie, NEVER TALK TO THE COPS! You seriously freaked me out. You should know better.

  28. #28 |  CSD | 

    #24 Seems like it could be possible but it seems like a stretch. Homicide charges for breaking someone’s ankle seems like a journey to a parallel universe.

    “if circulation is slow, such as occurs with lack of activity
    if there is an injury to the blood vessel, such as when a leg has broken,…”

  29. #29 |  Dante | 

    So, let me see if I have this right:

    The number of cops killed in the line of duty per year is going DOWN.

    The number of unarmed, innocent taxpayers killed by cops per year is going UP.

    Conclusion: The civilians are waging war on the cops.

    What doofus came up with that idea?

    Oh, yeah….. I almost forgot their motto. Now it makes sense.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  30. #30 |  Whim | 

    On average, year in and year out, about 50-60 police die violently each year in the “line of duty”. This is primarily due to gunshots.

    Several times that number are ATTRIBUTED to “line of duty” deaths. These deaths include predominately traffic wrecks, which a sizeable percentage are attributed to the fault of the policeman involved.

    Other “line of duty” deaths are heart attacks primarily, or other medical causes such as strokes or choking on food while on duty.

    The several hundred line of duty deaths recited by the police boot-lickers are thus heavily padded, and almost no one questions the higher number. Except on The Agitator……

  31. #31 |  TomPaine4 | 

    right on time…

    Why let the facts get in the way?

  32. #32 |  André | 

    Tom: It’s like they plan the front page articles to directly fly in the face of actual research done by Radley. Yesterday was prescription drug mania, today is “War On Cops.”

  33. #33 |  David | 

    Okay, after Comment #31, we know that the NY Times is about as truthful as a 12 year old in the principal’s office, but I think we can trust this one because it’s flat, empirical data:

    The most dangerous jobs in America? Not only are cops not on the list, NOBODY from the government is. As always, the true heroes are the productive men in the private sector, not the useless vampires in government.

    (And, as pointed out here and elsewhere, the vast majority of the “Officer Down!” cop fatalities are cops shooting each other, traffic accidents, or other freak accidents that are the opposite of the “They heroically charged into the enemy trench” idea that the cops pretend.)

  34. #34 |  Tiglinda | 

    Got a chuckle reading the NY Times article this morning. Loved the throw away line – “Through the first three months of this year, the number of police fatalities has dropped, though it is unclear why.”

    Couldn’t do any research into that?

  35. #35 |  elares | 

    ” In fact, if the current pace keeps up, we’ll actually hit an all-time low in police fatalities this year.”

    the lowest reported number in the linked table is 1. How do you predict an all time low this year?

  36. #36 |  bruno | 

    As a retired policeman discovering his libertarian roots, and a surveyor if libertarian sites this, I am not surprised by the outright hatred and vitriol towards police as it is a common theme here and elsewhere. The “war on cops” is a strong term, but to deny there are not multiple battles daily does not take into consideration a fair representation of what actually occurs on the street: BJS stats have 53,000 officers assaulted in 2010 and 57,000 officers assaulted in 2009. Both years have a little over a quarter injured. I would imagine that some of these assaults and injuries are minimal in nature, but the stats would more than balance out as a lot of cops I know, myself included, after a brawl, didn’t bother adding officer assault charges because it wasn’t worth the hassle. Officers killed in the line of duty is a small number compared to a lot of professions, but the job is indeed dangerous. And I gave up donuts years ago.

  37. #37 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @36: any specifc examples of a policeman that has been unfairly attacked here. I think our impression is that real assaults on police (that is, the kind that happen without police overreach and without intentional police escalation) are bad, but they are also punished and injured officers well-compensated. That is a fair way to take care of the problem. That is how we take care of the problem in fact, and there is no real “problem” — just a realization that we don’t live in Heaven and crime will always occur. We don’t complain about the part of the system that is “working” as best as it can be expected (given the fallen nature of man and the long history of racial segregation in this country).

    what we do complain about is bad cops. Because they are not being punished and because they are not being made to compensate the victims of their bad behavior. This is a problem that is not being addressed, and, quite naturally, it is the zone where our complaints sound the loudest (as yours should, too, and, in time, hopefully will).

  38. #38 |  Joe | 

    Actually, most jobs are dangerous. I’ve done construction, water/wastewater treatment (including the scary road work sometimes), and manufacturing, just to list the jobs I considered dangerous. I didn’t even list the jobs that I considered pretty safe compared to being a cop.

    Regarding wastewater plants: I actually know a father who drowned, so it can’t be too safe to work near basins. That should be obvious. There is actually a trend to get rid of chlorine gas and many other chemicals because of the “Russian Roulette” aspect of waiting on someone to make a mistake or equipment to not behave as advertised. Many of these chemicals are also popular for meth labs so security has increased. Ironic that when they outlawed common disinfectants and such, and then THAT’s when the thefts started getting bad. It’s like there’s some cause and effect thing going on or something. Gee, you think?! ;) Yeah, drug laws are insane. Driving is dangerous and many operators have to drive all over town, and often to the busiest parts of downtown or right next to highways. That NYT article showed exactly why that alone is scary for workers. That line for traffic accidents was at the very top!

    Police have it bad by the nature of what company they keep (gangs for example), but it’s not exactly like they’re the only workers out there with deaths directly caused by being at work. The numbers don’t lie – the worst is anything near a boat and if you don’t believe that, then you obviously have no idea how dangerous an ocean is. People climbing towers have to be up there as well. People that replace lights on water towers get paid very damn well and for good reason.

  39. #39 |  Michael Bloomberg’s call for a national police strike « Quotulatiousness | 

    […] there is a trend against cops, putting them at increasing risk of harm from gun-toting criminals. Radley Balko has beaten that myth to death. Mike Riggs too. It’s a good myth to further a public agenda in […]