By the Numbers: How Dangerous Is It to Be a Cop?

The post below was written in 2014 by Daniel Bier, the editor of FEE.org, and in light of current events I thought it was worth sharing and discussing that being a cop is NOT AS DANGEROUS OF A JOB as police would like you to believe.

By Daniel Bier, 2014:

Defenders of police militarization, such as that on display in Ferguson, Missouri, often claim that it’s necessary to provide military gear to cops, given how dangerous law enforcement has become.

Indeed, in the name of the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, the federal government has provided thousands of pieces of military-grade body armor, mine-resistant armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, grenade launchers, helicopters, and night-vision goggles to local police and sheriffs. Almost every county in America has received equipment from these programs.

But has policing really become so dangerous that we need to arm peace officers like an invading army? The answer is no. It’s never been safer to be a cop.

To start with, few police officers die in the line of duty. Since 1900, only 18,781 police officers have died from any work-related injury. That’s an average of 164 a year. In absolute terms, officer fatalities peaked in 1930 (during alcohol prohibition) at 297, spiking again in the 1970s before steadily declining since.

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If you look at police fatalities adjusted for the US population, the decline is even starker. 2013 was the safest year for American policing since 1875.

In 2013, out of approximately 900,000 sworn officers, just 100 died from a job-related injury. That’s about 11.1 per 100,000, or a rate of 0.01%.

Policing doesn’t even make it into the top 10 most dangerous American professions. Logging has a fatality rate 11 times higher, at 127.8 per 100,000. Fishing: 117 per 100,000. Pilot/flight engineer: 53.4 per 100,000. It’s twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as a cop—at 22.1 per 100,000.

Another point to bear in mind is that not all officer fatalities are homicides. Out of the 100 deaths in 2013, 31 were shot, 11 were struck by a vehicle, 2 were stabbed, and 1 died in a “bomb-related incident.” Other causes of death were: aircraft accident (1), automobile accident (28), motorcycle accident (4), falling (6), drowning (2), electrocution (1), and job-related illness (13).

Even assuming that half these deaths were homicides, policing would have a murder rate of 5.55 per 100,000, comparable to the average murder rate of U.S. cities: 5.6 per 100,000. It’s more dangerous to live in Baltimore (35.01 murders per 100,000 residents) than to be a cop in 2014.

This is not to say that police officers do not have a difficult job. They certainly do. They’re required to have daily contact with drunks, the mentally disabled, and criminal suspects. Arrests can often lead to physical confrontation, assault, and sometimes injury. Police are constantly dragged into families’ and neighbors’ petty squabbles. It can be a stressful and sometimes thankless task.

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But it just isn’t unusually deadly or dangerous—and it’s safer today than ever before. The data do not justify the kinds of armor, weapons, insecurity, and paranoia being displayed by police across the country. Short of an outbreak of land-mine-related crimes in America’s heartland, there’s no reason to deploy mine-resistant vehicles and.50 caliber machine guns to rural sheriffs departments.

Instead of hiding behind gas masks, how about putting cops back on the beat and talking to the community? Instead of M16s and grenade launchers, how about dashboard and body cameras, which have been shown to reduce excessive force and improve officer safety? I bet Mike Brown’s family wishes St. Louis County had considered that, rather than being dazzled by shiny new toys from the Pentagon.

Though the article was written in 2014, the profession of Police Officer still hasn’t cracked the top ten most dangerous jobs list and 2015 was one of the safest for police according to the Huffington Post: 

In a 2015 Rasmussen poll, 58 percent of voters said they believed there was a “war on police” in the United States.

But the FBI’s data has repeatedly contradicted these claims.

“Any felonious death of a police officer is a tragedy, but the data show that the police officers’ job is not becoming more deadly,” David Harris, a professor of law at University of Pittsburgh School of Law who studies policing, told The Huffington Post.

“The FBI statistics on police officer felonious deaths show that belief that the job is growing more dangerous, because of protests against police or because of the demand for reform to police practices, is simply wrong,” Harris wrote in an email. “Belief to the contrary may be sincere, but it has no basis in fact.”

An average of 64 law enforcement officers have been feloniously killed each year since 1980, according to FBI data. In each of the past three years, the number of fatal attacks on police has been below average. 2013 saw a historic low, and 2015 is now tied with 2008 for the second-lowest total in recent history.

Despite those numbers, William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, had a different take. He told HuffPost that officers on the street feel “much less safe,” and claimed they are “more likely to be attacked without warning” than in previous years.

Of course, as seen at the end of that blockquote, the police believe – subjectively and without physical or statistical proof – that they are more likely to be “attacked without warning”.

That fear plays a major role in the fact that policing is safer than it’s ever been but police are killing more than they ever have before!

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Ademo Freeman

was born and raised in Wisconsin, traveled the country in a RV dubbed "MARV" and is an advocate of a voluntary society, where force is replaced with voluntary interactions. He's partaken in projects such as, Motorhome Diaries, Liberty on Tour, Free Keene, Free Talk Live and is the Founder of CopBlock.org. ____________________________________________________________________________ If you enjoy my work at CopBlock.org, please, consider donating $1/month to the CopBlock Network or purchasing CopBlock.org Gear from the store. ____________________________________________________________________________ Find Ademo at these social networks: Facebook Twitter Youtube