Cop Stuff

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

A few other media outlets are now picking up on the massive drop in police fatality statistics this year. (Welcome to the story!) But so far, none of them have questioned what happened to all of those alleged trends (gun ownership, increasing contempt for cops, videotaping of police misconduct, anti-government sentiment, decreases in funding for police departments) they all reported were behind the non-existent “war on cops” they were all trumpeting last year. Or in the case of the New York Times, as recently as April.

If we use the numbers from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, there are 800,000 cops on the streets. There have been 53 on-the-job fatalities so far this year. But 21 of those were car accidents. There have been 19 firearms homicides against police. I looked through the descriptions of this year’s officer deaths by firearms at the NLEMF page. Two of the fatalities were from injuries sustained years ago (in one case, 30 years ago). That puts us at 17 for this year. I then looked through the 13 deaths classified as “other.” Four of those appear to have been homicides—three stabbings, and one officer who died from a blot clot resulting from an altercation with an inmate. So let’s add those to our 17. That gives us 21 homicides for the first half of 2012. (I’ll go ahead and count the two officers killed during SWAT-like drug raids, even though it’s possible the tactics themselves may have contributed to the officers’ deaths.)

By my math, that gives us a homicide rate of 5.25 per 100,000 officers. That’s not only a 50-year low, it’s only a hair above America’s overall homicide rate of 4.8. It’s also lower than the 2010 murder rates in 20 states. So in just a year, or just three months by the New York Times’ reckoning, all of those trends driving up violence against cops not only diminished, they practically vanished, to the point where we’ve had six months of historically low rates of police homicides.

How are the police organizations reacting to these figures?

Still, Mr. Floyd cautioned that the low fatality rate should not distract from serious threats to law enforcement agencies, many of which he said are facing severe budget cuts.

“We can’t look at these numbers and say that obviously, officers have everything they need to do their jobs safely — that’s simply not the case,” he said. “We are cutting back on officer strength, and that could very well spell trouble moving forward.”

Mr. Floyd said while many officers enjoy greater access to protective equipment and technology, criminal threats remain and reduced funding could put agencies at risk. He also said while fatality rated dropped, many more officers are still assaulted or injured.

Except that, as I’ve pointed out before, assaults against police officers have also been dropping for years.

“Even when the numbers are lower than normal, I still think it sends a chilling message,” he said.

Historic lows of violence against police officers “sends a chilling message?” No matter what the numbers say, law enforcement groups are going to claim they clearly indicate a need for more funding for police departments, and more power and less scrutiny for cops. Here, Mr. Floyd insists that despite the fact that the job is as safe as it has ever been, cops should still retain that “us vs. them” mindset.

“The bottom line is there is no such thing as a routine assignment.  Every assignment you go on is potentially life threatening, do not ever let your guard down.”

He needn’t worry. Incidents of police shooting citizens were up 70 percent up last year in Los Angeles (where 12 of the 54 victims in 2011 were unarmed). The numbers so far this year are lower than last year, but still higher than in years prior to 2011. In Chicago, police use of Tasers is up more than 300 percent in the last two years, while officer-involved shootings have also increased over the same period. That would seem to throw cold water on the idea that Tasers are used as a less-lethal substitute for bullets. Overall, crime in Chicago is up this year, but officer deaths are down. In Las Vegas, the crime rate and number of cops killed on the job have fallen dramatically since 1990, but shootings by cops have soared.

We can’t really compare violence against cops with cop violence against citizens on a national level, because police departments aren’t required to keep any data on officer-involved shootings. Nor do any federal agencies bother tracking those figures. This paragraph from the prior link is telling:

While the [FBI] collects, reports, and analyzes murders and assaults where police are the victim, Carr said budgetary concerns would likely preclude collecting such detailed data on shootings by police.

It’s all about priorities, I guess.

 

–Radley

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32 Responses to “Cop Stuff”

  1. #1 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Even if you do get arrested, as a cop, you don’t have to
    bear the same stigma as the rest of the population, regarding mugshots,
    and the extortion rackets that post them…
    More Florida Police State antics, for those who thought it was safe
    to go on vacation there…

    blog.safeshepherd.com/139/sunshine-law-spreads-evil-darkness

  2. #2 |  An Update in the nonWar on Police | FreeConcord.org | 

    [...] Balko, HuffPo journalist and chief of The Agitator blog reports on the increasing corporate media focus around a “war on cops”. 2012 is shaping up to [...]

  3. #3 |  mad libertarian guy | 

    We can’t really compare violence against cops with cop violence against citizens on a national level, because police departments aren’t required to keep any data on officer-involved shootings. Nor do any federal agencies bother tracking those figures.

    The fuck?

  4. #4 |  marie | 

    While the [FBI] collects, reports, and analyzes murders and assaults where police are the victim, Carr said budgetary concerns would likely preclude collecting such detailed data on shootings by police.

    That’s rich. You don’t want to give us more money because you think we have been too violent? You’ll have to give us more money for us to refute that!

  5. #5 |  DoubleU | 

    Speaking of police fatalities… Cop shoots his own son:
    http://www.uticaod.com/latestnews/x42015524/Western-NY-man-shot-killed-at-Old-Forge-hotel

  6. #6 |  Cop Stuff… « When Tennessee Pigs Fly | 

    [...] http://www.theagitator.com/2012/07/21/cop-stuff-3/ Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  7. #7 |  EH | 

    DoubleU: Something is hinky in that story for sure.

  8. #8 |  An Update in the nonWar on Police | OccuWorld | 

    [...] Balko, HuffPo journalist and chief of The Agitator blog reports on the increasing corporate media focus around a “war on cops”. 2012 is shaping up to [...]

  9. #9 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I recall encountering a theory that the steady decline in violent crime, and violence in general, could be attributed to the aging of the general population. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory – I favor the idea that the drop in crime is connected to the spread of ‘must issue’ laws, because I favor obeying the constitution and its amendments and amending it further if there is a problem – but I throw it out here.

  10. #10 |  mad libertarian guy | 

    @7

    It probably has a lot to do with more and more people gaining economic security. Economic security is a cure to many, many things. Crime. Teen pregnancy. Environmental pollution. And any number of other social ills.

    Despite what the retards in Team BLUE, and the OWStards in specific, will tell about “income inequality” (a trumped up statistic if ever there were one), the quality of life for EVERYONE in America has dramatically risen over the last century, and many social ills have fallen by the wayside because of it.

    It’s not that the population is getting older, but that it is getting richer.

  11. #11 |  z | 

    Maybe by shooting first more often they are preventing their own deaths?

  12. #12 |  Joshua | 

    Maybe we can go back to the good old days like those described in this glowing article, when the cops could beat the crap out of people in a crowded hotel lobby and nobody would do a thing about it:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-vegas-sheriff-20120720,0,7911575.story

  13. #13 |  Zargon | 

    #11

    Maybe by shooting first more often they are preventing their own deaths?

    Good point. I propose we extend the policy of “shoot first” to everybody, not just cops, since if it lowers the death rate for cops, it should lower the death rate for everyone.

  14. #14 |  DoubleU | 

    #7 EH:
    Yea I always wonder about stories like that. I would think that there would be some kind of conversation that included:
    Shooter: “Stop there I am a police officer!”
    Son: “Woa dad, it’s me!”

  15. #15 |  BamBam | 

    From new Batman movie:

    mayor: “there are men trapped in the tunnel”
    cop not trapped in tunnel: “no, there are POLICE trapped in the tunnel”

    police > men, which can be logically extended to police > humans.
    > as in “have more value to them, thus more homage and care should be given to such ascended individuals”.

  16. #16 |  George | 

    DoubleU — I see from the article you posted that the entry wound was in the son’s back.

    20 cop homicides (I do not count blood clots) YTD among 800k cops.

    2050 US deaths in Afghanistan YTD among 90k troops.

    The next time you hear someone say cops risk their lives everyday, think of this comparison

  17. #17 |  George | 

    OOOPS! I lied — as soon as hit Submit I knew I was wrong. 2050 deaths for the entire OEF conflict. 186 YTD. Still, on a per-100k basis, that’s a mortality rate more than 10 times higher.

  18. #18 |  David | 

    Just saw the Aurora police chief on Fox News….saying that COPS were the victims! The drama queen straight-up said that the fact that cops “could have” been hurt got him more mad than the fact that 12 young people were just murdered in cold blood!

    Please, everybody, listen to the police audio and remember what the cops in Aurora did when they were truly needed in theater #9: THEY STOOD BACK LIKE CRAVEN COWARDS, LISTENED TO THE GUNFIRE AND MURDERS, AND SAID THEY WOULD NOT GO IN UNTIL THEY COULD GET GAS MASKS.

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/07/colorado-shooting-police-tapes-detail-crisis-need-for-backup-pursuit-of-suspect/

    Absolute. Craven. Cowards.

    And now their police chief (I think he’s the chief, whoever the “Oates” guy is that’s on TV all the time) is posturing like cops were the victims.

  19. #19 |  David | 

    Props to Radley for his writing in this specific article. It was forceful, devoid of needless caveats and qualifications which can mask the point, and very crisp.

    The best part:

    “Historic lows of violence against police officers “sends a chilling message?” No matter what the numbers say, law enforcement groups are going to claim they clearly indicate a need for more funding for police departments, and more power and less scrutiny for cops.”

  20. #20 |  jmcross | 

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/21/4648601/police-shooting-in-anaheim-leads.html

  21. #21 |  Charlie Day | 

    That’s good news for John Brennan (aka the Naked TSA Protester): http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/07/20/your-right-strip-naked-airport/

    Less murders means less tired irritable cops which means less likely getting the crap kicked out of you after stripping naked at an airport.

  22. #22 |  John | 

    More murders of cops? Clearly a sign cops need more privileges, criminals fewer rights. Fewer murders of cops? Clearly a sign cops need more privileges, criminals fewer rights. Seems legit.

  23. #23 |  Other Sean | 

    David,

    Let me help you feel a bit more pissed off.

    Back in 1999, there was allegedly a massive gut-check in the law enforcement profession. The cult of officer safety had given birth to the notion that active gun shots = “set up a perimeter and wait for S.W.A.T.” At Columbine, it became all too obvious what this meant: armed and body-armored cops hiding behind their engine blocks while civilians died under fire.

    So the profession responded with a new protocol for active shooter incidents that said: active gun shots = “you grab the first 3 guys you can find and start moving toward the sound of the guns.” No waiting for S.W.A.T., no waiting for scoped rifles, or gas masks, or ballistic shields. You hear shooting, you go in. This is what most departments now teach, and for many it is also a matter of policy.

    BUT IT NEVER FUCKING HAPPENS. In practice, the response you get today is the same response the kids at Columbine got 13 years ago. The cops always find some reason not to go in, some excuse not to follow the revised protocol.

    So if you ever find yourself caught in a massacre, don’t call 911 for shots fired. Your best hope is to dial the narcotics tip line and say that someone is trying to flush a bag of weed down the toilet. Then, at least, the cops will WANT to come charging through the door.

  24. #24 |  K2 | 

    Excellent analysis over the duties and use of SWAT teams, here:
    http://pjmedia.com/blog/swat-and-the-second-amendment/?singlepage=true

  25. #25 |  AlgerHiss | 

    Being a LEO has never been safer?

    Someone ought to let Morris Dees and Mark Potok at SPLC know of this. Of course, they’ll never believe it.

  26. #26 |  David | 

    Thanks for sharing that in #23, OtherSean! The final paragraph made me smirk and have a sad laugh full of despair.

    (It’s funny that you pointed out the cops’ cowardice at Columbine, too: most people are unaware of that. There, I remember hearing that the murderers had been dead for, like, hours while the cops were still outside, firing bullets into school windows and things. But how is this reality going to compete with the 1,000 “cops are our tough heroes in constant danger” TV shows and movies airing at any one time. Ah well, people can indulge whatever delusions they want. It’s a free country.)

  27. #27 |  Marty Feldman's Eyes | 

    “No matter what the numbers say, law enforcement groups are going to claim they clearly indicate a need for more funding for police departments”

    Indeed. Another statistical manipulation:

    When crime is low (likely due to under reporting), take credit. When the politicians in charge start to claim the money crisis is over, cherry pick a few months to try to show that there is a disturbing increase, and more money is needed.

    http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_1dafba7c-d1fb-11e1-95c7-0019bb2963f4.html

  28. #28 |  Burgers Allday | 

    (It’s funny that you pointed out the cops’ cowardice at Columbine, too: most people are unaware of that. There, I remember hearing that the murderers had been dead for, like, hours while the cops were still outside, firing bullets into school windows and things.

    The situation at Binghamton was worse. They were on the telephone with a woman who was shot in the stomach, and who knows how many other people bleeding out, while the policemen stood outside. However, the little cop trick they used there was to have a policeman go into the basement of the building. That way they could say they went in right away, even though they really didn’t go in.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binghamton_shootings

    Because my mother’s nursing home was a couple of blocks down the street I followed the story closely. I think even the delay times in the Wikipedia article (as bad as they make the police look) may have been fudged.

  29. #29 |  David | 

    #28,

    Yeah, yeah, yeah: cops are useless when they’re actually needed. Alright, now we’re beating a dead horse!

    No, I’m kidding. Thanks for sharing this. One could write a full thesis on this topic, from the look of things. (I’d never even heard of the Binghamton shootings! I don’t watch cable news and don’t follow pop politics, though, so it’s scattershot what stories I ever hear about. A very, very sad and tragic event. Prayers for the dead.)

  30. #30 |  Jim | 

    “Ah well, people can indulge whatever delusions they want. It’s a free country.”

    It IS?!?!?!

    or maybe my sarcasm meter is off today

  31. #31 |  Bloomberg Call for Chaos » Right Thinking | 

    [...] frisked than there are black men and an insane number of marijuana busts. Mike Riggs, Ken White and Radley Balko take the “War on Cops” talking point apart. Money quote: In 2008, ten times more [...]

  32. #32 |  Some Thoughts and Reactions on the Aurora Massacre » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    [...] Balko recently noted, once again, that the hysteria amongst the police nationwide over cops getting shot and the [...]

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