One of the many great things that David Packman does with his National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project is put the data that he collects into perspective so that we statistical laypeople can make sense of what the data means. His Quarterly and Yearly Police Misconduct Statistic Reports are invaluable in the fight for more police accountability, but his Ancillary Reports are just as important.
In a report titled “Arguing the Case for Police Accountability,” Packman correctly points out that many people do not see police misconduct as a large enough problem to warrant the kind of concern and attention that websites such as Cop Block and Injustice Everywhere wish to bring to the matter. The “just a few bad apples” argument is one we are all very familiar with. Packman addresses this argument by comparing the data he has collected about police misconduct with the FBI/DOJ Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (UCR) report. What he finds is that “law enforcement officers appear to be involved in violent crime in a comparable rate with the general population. 432 officers out of every 100,000 compared to 454.5 people out every 100,000. So, roughly 0.43% vs 0.45%.”
Both of those numbers are incredibly small. The overwhelming majority of people in this country do not commit violent crime against other people, but how many people if asked would say that violent crime is not worthy of concern or attention. I do not think many people would. In fact, the argument that the “police keep us safe” from violent crime is often the excuse offered for the blind support of all actions taken by the police. But violent crime committed by police officers is just as serious of a problem as violent crime committed by non-police. If you offer your support to the police shouldn’t you also offer support to those that are armed with a video camera and the internet in an attempt keep themselves and others safe from the violent crimes of the police?
For many, enforcing arbitrary laws that result in the caging of people who have not aggressed against another person or their property should also be considered misconduct on the part of the police. But you do not have to hold that belief to be worried about the rate by which police officers commit violence against those they purport to protect. Even if you think that laws against victimless crimes, such as jaywalking, drug possession, prostitution, gambling, etc. should be enforced, there is, as Packman points out, enough violent crime committed by police officers for you to still be outraged by the lack of accountability those police officers face.
Note: David Packman is still having trouble finding work. I encourage you to visit his site and donate.