Militarization of Police

Just How Dangerous Is Police Work?

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The news wires buzzed yesterday with stories about an uptick in police fatalities last year. Most stories followed that lead with language about the dangers of police work. I won't deny that police work is more dangerous than your average profession (it's certainly more dangerous than journalism). I also don't mean to belittle those cops who were killed in the line of duty. Nor will I argue with the fact that there are times when police officers really do put their lives on the line, and that those who do deserve our admiration and gratitude.

But it's also important to get some perspective, here. Browse online police forums, and you'll see cops defending all sorts of bad acts by other cops with lines like, "I'll do whatever we have to do to make it home at night." Letting statistics like those released yesterday go unchallenged with only the varnish applied by various professional police organizations exaggerates the real threat to police officers, and leads to the troubling trend toward militarization we've seen over the last 25 years. It also allows for police groups and advocates to dismiss aggressive behavior, excuse improper police shootings, and justify all of those taser videos we've seen over the last couple of years. We should do what we can to diminish the threat to police officers, but not at the expense of the rights and safety of everyone else. Striking the right balance requires a proper assessment of just what sorts of risks police officers actually face.

So just how dangerous is police work? Generally, police are about three times as likely to be killed on the job as the average American. It isn't among the top ten most dangerous professions, falling well behind logging, fishing, driving a cab, trash collecting, farming, and truck driving. Moreover, about half of police killed on the job are killed in traffic accidents, and most of those are not while in pursuit of a criminal or rushing to the scene of a crime. I don't point this out to diminish the tragedy of those cops killed in routine traffic accidents. My point is that the number of annual on-the-job police fatalities doesn't justify giving cops bigger guns, military equipment, and allowing them to use more aggressive and increasingly militaristic tactics. A military-issue weapon isn't going to prevent traffic accidents. In this context, then, it makes sense to remove from consideration deaths not directly attributable to the bad guys.

So take out traffic accidents and other non-violent deaths, and you're left with 69 officers killed on the job by criminals last year. That's out of about 850,000 officers nationwide. That breaks down to about 8 deaths per 100,000 officers, or less than twice the national average of on-the-job fatalities.

Now I suppose you could argue that on-the-job police fatalities are low because of the very things I'm arguing against—aggressive tactics, bigger guns and armor, military equipment, etc. But I'm not sure that's backed by the numbers. On-the-job police fatalities peaked in 1974, at the height of Nixon's war on drugs. They declined throughout the 1970s under Carter's less aggressive drug war, then leveled off in the 1980s under Reagan. The next big drop came in the 1990s, coinciding with a dramatic overall drop in violent crime nationwide. Probably not coincidentally, the slight increase in police fatalities in 2007 also came during a year that saw a slight uptick in violent crime in general.

Twice the national average means police work certainly carries added risk. But is it the kind of risk that justifies, for example, a more than 1,000 percent increase in the use of SWAT teams over the last 25 years? Does it justify the fact that our cops that once looked like this now look like this? Your call, I guess.

Of course, if policymakers were really serious about protecting police officers, there's one thing they could do that would have a dramatic, immediate impact on officer safety: They could end the drug war.

NEXT: Friday Funnies

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  1. My father-in-law was a cop in New Hampshire. He told me once he put a guy in the hospital with around 80 stitches, I’m going to assume from a baton. He said when people would ask his wife “what kind of man is your father,” she would reply “a live one.”

  2. (it’s certainly more dangerous than journalism). Yea? try telling that to this guy!

  3. A friend of mine is a Louisville cop. He found this link to FBI stats about officer fatalities pretty interesting.

    http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/killed/2006/

  4. I’m in the roofing industry, which is 2nd highest in construction fatalities (only steel framers die more) according to the insurance companies, i.e. the people who actually have an incentive to be correct.

    So does this mean I get to talk shit to cops now?

  5. Thank you, Radley, for reiterating what I’ve stated repeatedly over the years (in this forum and elsewhere).

    One thing you forgot to mention, though: when one of those fishermen, lumberjacks, cabbies, truck drivers, farmers, garbagemen, roofers, carpenters, …, dies, we are not treated to the spectacle of THOUSANDS of their comrades, from far and wee, converging to march through town as a “show of force.”

  6. The implication here is that most on the job police fatalities by violent action are drug war related. I would think the majority are related to domestic disturbance incidents.

  7. Sage,

    Yes, he is a live one, but at the same time, much like a soldier his job is to die for the public. Part of the nobility that goes along with being a soldier or a cop or a fireman is that you risk your life so that others don’t have to. The fact is that given a choice between the life of a cop and the life of an innocent civilian, the civilian’s life wins. That is why they call it “protect and to serve”. It is not “protect and to serve as long as it doesnt involve losing my life and then it is every man for himself”.

    I am very sorry about every cop who dies on duty and have great respect for those who choose to make that sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice they choose to make. The idea that we should over arm cops and put public at greater risk in order to lower the risk to cops turns that idea on its head. To me the better to be tried by tweleve than carried by six attitude of most cops these days is unfortuneately just a sympton of our society; everyone wants the glory and the benefits but then doesn’t want to pay the price when the time comes.

  8. Why would we, John? Those people are not officially certified heroes.

  9. JasonL,

    Any idea what accidentally killed covers? Is that like car accidents on duty?

  10. I think the lack of prosecution of those officers who commit heinous acts is far worse than allowing them to use submachine guns and body armor. Make them pay the consequences when they shoot your dog, stomp your wife or taser you. But bitching about their equipment?

    I’m all for ending the drug war no matter how you slice it.

  11. The implication here is that most on the job police fatalities by violent action are drug war related. I would think the majority are related to domestic disturbance incidents.

    2 out of 48 in 2006 were domestic disturbances, according to link JasonL provided. 2 were during drug related arrests.

    The biggest sub-category is unprovoked attacks at 9.

  12. The fact is that if someone wants to shoot you there is not a damn thing you can do about it. My action will be your reaction everytime. You could arm cops with RPGs and unless you just shot everyone you walked up to, it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good. If a cop pulls me over and I am crazy enough and desparate enough to want to kill him, I will blow his head off before he can draw his weapon. That is why being a cop is a dangerous job.

  13. Of the 10 ambushes (9 unprovoked), the 8 traffic stops, and the 6 investigating suspicious persons – I would guess a big chunk were drug related. Not very likely that any of those 24 (which make up half the cop murders in 2006) were domestic disturbance related.

  14. OTOH, I think it’s an unfair comparison to equate on-the-job construction fatalities with police fatalities.

    Construction death tend to be from accidents or negligence, whereas police deaths are more likely to be intentional acts of violence.

    Not to say it’s okey dokey to militarize police, but this is not an issue that is worth nitpicking over…

    1. Didn’t the article just state that the majority of cop deaths are due to negligence. Additionally, if you eliminate drugs from the criminal roster, what reason do they have to constantly try to invade peoples privacy?

      The fact remains, it doesn’t matter how the death comes, just the odds that it will. Cops do not belong behaving how they do when other people are risking more for less. What about those valiant drug dealers that keep prices low and quality high in the face of violent opposition? Drug dealers are literally being hunted down by providing the service that they do by both the authorities and any competition that may want to take their market share

    2. Didn’t the article just state that the majority of cop deaths are due to negligence. Additionally, if you eliminate drugs from the criminal roster, what reason do they have to constantly try to invade peoples privacy?

      The fact remains, it doesn’t matter how the death comes, just the odds that it will. Cops do not belong behaving how they do when other people are risking more for less. What about those valiant drug dealers that keep prices low and quality high in the face of violent opposition? Drug dealers are literally being hunted down by providing the service that they do by both the authorities and any competition that may want to take their market share

  15. Any idea what accidentally killed covers? Is that like car accidents on duty?

    The way police treat anything that happens to an officer at any time, it probably includes off-duty car accidents and things like slipping off a ladder.

  16. “OTOH, I think it’s an unfair comparison to equate on-the-job construction fatalities with police fatalities.

    Construction death tend to be from accidents or negligence, whereas police deaths are more likely to be intentional acts of violence.

    Not to say it’s okey dokey to militarize police, but this is not an issue that is worth nitpicking over…”

    That just means police deserve respect and our thanks for doing their job. It doesn’t mean that we should put innocent people’s lives at risk to save police. Like I said, in a very real sense their job is to die so you and I don’t have to.

  17. Taktix,

    police deaths are more likely to be intentional acts of violence.

    In 2006: 48 murders 66 accidental deaths. From 1997-2006, 562 murders 739 accidental.

    Police deaths are primarily accidental. Sure there are more murders than on construction sites….

    Anyway, when there are perfectly good stats linked within the comments, people need to stop using numbers pulled from their ass.

  18. JasonL —

    You are right; that is fascinating.

    robc —

    mostly, according to the report overview, traffic accidents.

    John —

    and that, by and large, is the problem with the existence of police departments in the first place: the whole “they do so we don’t have to” routine. Communities in trouble that take into their own hands the responsibility of cleaning up their streets do much better than those that just let the police handle it.

    Police were the response to a problem (the increasing size and density of cities), and due to the iron law of unintended consequences, created through their very existence other problems that are starting to become bigger than the problem they were originally designed to solve.

  19. robc,

    I definitely mean by comparison. There are very few incidences of some guy killing his foreman for stealing a taco…

  20. Jason L ‘s link suggests traffic stops of violent felons are the likeliest precursors to police killings. Arresting other LE/ correctional officers looks pretty dangerous too.

  21. This whole “I could not come home tonight even though I will be eating doughnuts and filling out paperwork all shift” attitude is absurd. Of course a cop could be out on a call and have things go bad, but the numbers themselves indicate how infrequent that actually is.

    But this leads to such now-common behaviors as having their hand on their gun and suspiciously approaching for a routine traffic stop of some middle aged lady with two kids in the car.

    Personally, I don’t trust cops with guns because most practice so infrequently yet consider themselves to be Rob Leatham solely because they are cops.

    I’m thinking that this “every shift is potentially lethal” attitude will end up in innocent peoples’ deaths more and more.

  22. There are very few incidences of some guy killing his foreman for stealing a taco…

    Not in KY. I need to find a good link to “the greatest news story ever”. And I didnt put that in quotes because it isnt true.

  23. One thing you forgot to mention, though: when one of those fishermen, lumberjacks, cabbies, truck drivers, farmers, garbagemen, roofers, carpenters, …, dies, we are not treated to the spectacle of THOUSANDS of their comrades, from far and wee, converging to march through town as a “show of force.”

    Yea? Tell that one to Mobey Dick!

  24. John —

    As an aside, I have met and been friends with the odd police officer who was due respect…my experience with police overall has been that they are a varied lot, and get into the work (and stay) for many different reasons. I’ve only been arrested once (college protest 😉 and was struck by the professionalism and respect of the arresting officer and some of the other officers I came into contact with during that experience. On the other hand, on that same college campus, I’ve seen friends of mine thrown down stairs, harassed through traffic stops, booked for phantom drug charges, and generally intimidated by officers in that very same department.

    My conclusion about those varied experiences for myself is that police deserve about as much respect as the average stranger…but because they have guns and a great deal of official power, I am leery of giving them more than that.

    Once I heard a defense lawyer say there were only two kinds of cops, bad cops and good cops:

    Bad cops try to ruin your life because they are messed up, or power-hungry, or just don’t give a shit and are angry about their lot in life.

    Good cops try to ruin your life because it is their job to do so, and they are driven to do that job well.

  25. “Police were the response to a problem (the increasing size and density of cities), and due to the iron law of unintended consequences, created through their very existence other problems that are starting to become bigger than the problem they were originally designed to solve.”

    I wouldn’t go that far. If the problems police create really were bigger than the ones they solve, we would be better off without police alltogether. I would not want to get rid of the police department. My chances of being robbed or killed by a criminal is a hell of a lot higher than it is by a cop and one can only imagine how high it would be if their were no police department.

  26. 2 out of 48 in 2006 were domestic disturbances, according to link JasonL provided. 2 were during drug related arrests.

    Is their some table I’m missing? I’ve found 6 domestic disturbance incidents in JasonL’s link.
    They well outnumber the primarily drug related cases.

  27. Elemenope,

    I have several friends who are defense lawyers and I was one myself for a short time. There are a lot of people out there that frankly need to be locked up and I would not want to deal with on a thousand dollar bet. I am very happy to have police to deal with them for me. There is nothing wrong with the profession of law enforcement and not all cops are bad. Further, if you had to do their job and deal with the people they deal with on a regular basis, you would get jaded as well. That doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it is rediculous to claim that cops exist just to ruin people’s lives.

  28. Okay here is The Greatest News Story Ever. One problem, apparently when the Frankfort State-Journal archives stories, they remove formatting and a significant amount of punctuation. The original was easier to read, but I cant find that version. Also, a taco is worth a bit less than $50, but still, it aint worth a chainsawing.

  29. http://volokh.com/2002_04_28_volokh_archive.html#76047815

    Occupation : Workplace homicides per 100,000
    Taxicab driver/chauffeur : 22.7
    Sheriff/bailiff : 10.7
    Police and detective — public service : 6.1
    Gas station/garage worker : 5.9
    Security guard : 5.5

  30. Is anyone aware of any statistics relating to the number of civilians (both alleged offenders and innocent bystanders) who were injured or killed during interactions with police?

    I’d love to see if there’s any trend in that data that might correlate (either positively or negatively) with the growing adoption of SWAT teams.

    It would also be interesting to compare those data to the injury and mortality rates for police officers to see whose safety (the police or the public) is really being impacted.

  31. John M. Joy:

    …we are not treated to the spectacle of THOUSANDS of their comrades, from far and wee, converging to march through town as a “show of force.”

    David:

    …it probably includes off-duty car accidents and things like slipping off a ladder.

    A few years ago there was a police funeral that tied up traffic all day long on the major throughfares in Winter Park, FL.

    Officers came from all across the country to attend the internment of an Orange County Deputy Sherriff who had died at home of a heart attack. He was in his forties.

    There were a number of statements from his brethren tended to the praising of this “hero”.

    But there was nothing in any of the of the accounts that suggested that this guy had had anything but an entirely mundane, mostly deskbound, career.

    The only career that I can think of that has anywhere near as much of a cult built up around it is public school teacher.

    Firefighters and Ironworkers also have a cult around themselves, but they tend to keep it in their own community rather that imposing it on society at large.

  32. Does this count as an accident or murder?

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/121523.html

    Jurors deliberated more than three hours before returning the guilty verdict against Massigh J. Stallmann, 28, of High Ridge.

    The trooper was Ralph C. Tatoian of north St. Louis County, a trained sniper who was rushing along Interstate 44 to join the manhunt in Franklin County on April 20, 2005. He died when he struck a tractor-trailer that had stopped to help another motorist.

    Even though Stallmann was hiding in woods some 30 miles away from Tatoian’s crash site, prosecutors won the murder conviction. Missouri law allows a felony murder charge when an officer is killed while responding to aid in a felony arrest.

    Taaffe said Tatoian had a slight blood-alcohol level, was late for his callout to duty and drove fast in a construction zone. A prosecution witness said that the low level of alcohol wouldn’t impair the trooper.

  33. John:

    There are a lot of people out there that frankly need to be locked up and I would not want to deal with on a thousand dollar bet.

    Two thoughts:

    1. There are a LOT of nasty jobs I wouldn’t want to tackle on a thousand dollar bet. That aforementioned garbageman’s for instance (especially since, as pointed out, it’s more dangerous than the LEO’s, statistically-speaking). Hell, I’d never want to be a dentist, spending all day looking into people’s nasty maws, or – horror – a gynecologist or proctologist, looking into a bunch of nasty… whatevers. That there are people who find this work rewarding is one of the benefits of living in a beautifully diverse human society.

    2. You would be well served not to assume that, police or no, you can avoid dealing with scum. Odds are that, when an incident occurs, the nearest LEO is at least several minutes away.

    JMJ

  34. Construction death tend to be from accidents or negligence, whereas police deaths are more likely to be intentional acts of violence.

    Not counting the police deaths in traffic accidents, of course.

    And of the deaths attributable to violence, I would guess that at least some are due to negligence.

  35. Ancedotal evidence supporting Anon@10:47’s point.
    I spent 10 years at a taxicab company in a medium size Midest city.(Working from memory)

    Cabbies:
    4 killed in robberies
    1 killed in a drug deal (he probably deserve it)
    1 killed in a traffic accident.

    Cops:
    0 killed

    CoC

  36. Officers came from all across the country to attend the internment of an Orange County Deputy Sherriff who had died at home of a heart attack. He was in his forties.

    I’m surprised that they didn’t charge the fry cook at the nearest McDonald’s with capital murder.

  37. JMJ,

    I don’t disagree with you. Policing is a tough job and that is what they get paid for. People act like the death of a cop is somehow more of a tragedy than anyone else’s death and that is just not true.

  38. Wouldn’t snuff film actresses have a higher mythical murder rate than cops? I mean, since that has been making about a 10 cycle of “big news” since the 1970s or so and no actual victim has been found (last I heard anyway, from the last story peak in the late 1990s).

    Almost time for that one to come back.

  39. I think John makes a good point. Police and firefighters and the like may well spend many shifts doing nothing more dangerous than paperwork. But that’s not really the point. The fact is that when one of those folks is on call (I’ll use firefighters as an example, since that’s where my experience is), when the call comes, you go, no matter what you have been called to deal with. A shift where nothing happens for 20 hours could end with a trip into a burning building to pull someone out. That’s the agreement one makes when one takes the job. And that makes a difference. In the case of firefighters, it’s worth remembering that something like 2/3 of America’s firefighters are volunteers. In other words, they are on call all the time, and do what they do for no pay.

    That being said, Balko is exactly right. While I’m all in favor of officer safety, (and the safety of EMTs and firefighters) I don’t think that public servants have any right to improve their own odds of survival by reducing those of the people around them. That’s not how it works, and any cop/FF who thinks otherwise really ought to seek another line of work.

  40. John —

    I agree that some people are dangerous in the extreme; non-functional in society, sadistic, or otherwise a menace. As some folks in Texas say, sometimes ” He just needs killin’ “; and while I am against the death penalty, I certainly sympathize with the sentiment sometimes. Some people are dangerous; only a fool or a naif would think otherwise.

    However, these people have always existed; they predate professional law enforcement for sure, and predate criminal justice in general. Societies have attempted several different methods of minimizing the harm that the presence of such individuals can inflict, and a militarized police department with broad powers is merely one of them (with, shall we say, mixed and middling but fairly substantial success).

    I and many of the people I know, including those who have had close experience with or have been victims of crimes, fear more from the day-to-day threat of an interaction with a cop than they fear being victimized (again, in some cases) by a criminal. They don’t fear for their lives, generally speaking (though one fellow who I got pulled over who was Black I thought was going to pass out he was so scared; he was gripping the steering wheel pretty damned tightly. That, incidentally, was the only time I’ve seen a cop approach a car with a weapon drawn. Might have had something to do with it.) What they fear is the power that police have (with basic impunity) to penalize them or not, using traffic regulations as their weapons. They also fear having their things turned inside out, or degraded or intimidated by a person with power over them, and they fear that they will not be treated fairly and if they are that they will have no recourse.

    The number of predators on the street remains very low, always has been. The problems that I see as being worse than those that the police were created to solve are the erosions to the basic sense of dignity and independence to which every adult person ought to be entitled. After interacting with police, if a population generally doesn’t come to expect fairness, comes to feel emasculated and used, disrespected, and becomes fearful of the power being held over them (with seemingly arbitrary application) then something is deeply wrong.

    While I generally don’t care much for Justice Scalia, his concurrence in Minnesota v. Dickerson is worth reading in its entirety, as it articulates fairly sharply just how far we’ve fallen from the pride and dignity of the founders to now in the name of safety provided by police departments.

    It would have been worth much, much more as a dissent, but after all, Scalia is a conservative first and a “libertarian” far, far second.

    BTW, police are pressured by explicit and implicit inducements to produce “results”, i.e. # of tickets, convictions, closed cases, etc.. It literally has become their job, one way or another, to “get the guy”, and that often translates into ruining lives. I really believe that the lawyer who said what I wrote above was not being overly cynical when he said that.

  41. Is anyone aware of any statistics relating to the number of civilians (both alleged offenders and innocent bystanders) who were injured or killed during interactions with police?

    All deaths in interactions with police are deaths of civilians. Perhaps this failure to remember that cops are civilians is what is at the heart of the matter.

    Statistics reating to deaths of civilians are only relevant when talking about military actions.

  42. Elemenope,

    Those are all good points and things that need to be fixed. The problems you point out however are not inherent to professional law enforcment. The answer to people worrying about the arbitrary use of power by cops is not to eliminate the cops but to eliminate the laws, like about three quarters of the traffic laws, that make everyone a criminal.

    The other point to consider is that police exist for the protection of the criminal as much as the protection of the public. Yes, people did deal with criminals in the days before organized police departments. The did so primarily through vigalantism. Thanks to Hollywood, vigilantees get a bad name. But vigilantees were a perfectly rational response to a lack of professional law enforcment. If I can’t get justice through the government and the judicial process, I will get justice on my own and that justice eventually devolves into blowing someone’s head off. Unfortunately, that is a pretty imperfect system and results in a lot more harm than good.

  43. CaptainChaos —

    I think John’s point there would be better if it was in fact a requirement of the police to place themselves in harm’s way in order to save others. Courts, though, have consistently ruled that there is no such requirement.

    I agree on the somewhat tangential point vis a vis firefighters (who have a more dangerous job, overall, than cops). But firefighters are not cops, and equivocating on that point serves to obscure the issue. Firefighters are generally not in a zero-sum game with some other agent to determine what the proper course of action is; cops often are.

    To wit, firefighters interact primarily with fires, and their function is to put them out or extract people from them (thus saving lives), whereas police primarily interact with people, and so their function is consequentially messier.

  44. And of the deaths attributable to violence, I would guess that at least some are due to negligence.

    Not to mention a significant number in Jim Crow days that are now widely recognized as self-defence.

  45. I agree, John, that the primary practical reason why police are a corrupting force is that they have so many levers (e.g. traffic regulations, drug forfeiture laws, etc.) to use to move people. I also agree that vigilantism is not a great answer.

    However, the problems that are inherent to professionalizing any service (namely, the people involved become more concerned with the defense of the profession and its members, and perpetuating the power that the profession confers, than serving the people who are its ‘customers’) are not easily mitigated, even if the practical tools were addressed so as to be less destructive. Police can say, pretty rightly, that nobody knows but them what the job is really like (and then I think use that argument to say incorrectly that, therefore, nobody is qualified to judge their actions and policies).

    I always thought that, flawed as it might be, elected sheriff systems (such as that which many small towns still have) were fairly good in that the person so elected was still required (by the election) to be responsive to those he ostensibly has power over; i.e. there is power flowing both ways. I have no idea how such a system (or an analogous one) might work in a big city, but it might help.

  46. And of the deaths attributable to violence, I would guess that at least some are due to negligence.

    True enough. You Hit’n’Runners with guns, don’t forget to keep them locked when not in use:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/28/nyregion/28shoot.html?ref=nyregion

    If you have guns lying around, then people will use them too casually in domestic arguments.

  47. Elemenope-Your point is well taken, but you’re mistaken in stating that firefighters interact with fires more than people. While that may be true of FFs who are nothing other than firefighters, those are few and far between. EMT certification is a requirement for every professional firefighting job I’ve ever run across, and most departments run more EMS calls than fire calls. (This changes for large departments in areas where ambulance service is provided by a private company or separate department, but those are the distinct minority.) My in-no-way-scientific guess is that the calls break down like so:
    1) EMS calls 85-90%
    2) Car accidents
    3) Structure fires
    4) Other, non-life threatening fires.

    EMS is very definitely a people-oriented business, and some of the situations we are called to are the same ones the cops are working.

    Of course, there’s a big difference. Fire/EMS folks are not LEOs, and we don’t want to be. Our job is to help, period. We’re not out to arrest anyone, or to help the cops do so. (More than one cop has become infuriated with an EMT who won’t tell a cop whether the patient has been drinking. The law, BTW, says that we can’t answer that question.) That changes everything about how we deal with people.

  48. I and many of the people I know, including those who have had close experience with or have been victims of crimes, fear more from the day-to-day threat of an interaction with a cop than they fear being victimized (again, in some cases) by a criminal.

    This is really the most important point here. The fact that if a cop who pulls you over for a traffic stop is having a bad day/doesn’t like your face/is a racist, they can really, really hurt you. I don’t mean physically (though they can do that too and then claim “resisting arrest”), I mean cause you to have to go to court, hire a lawyer, pay fees, even go to jail, and have an arrest record. These things are very, very life-affecting, costly, and stressful. But a cop can do this to you, either legitimately (he pulls you over for busted taillight and smells MJ and finds some joints), or illegitimately (pulls you over, thinks you don’t “respect his authoritah”, and plants the joints).

    A criminal could try and kill you, or may just steal from you. But you can shoot him, and be paid insurance for losses to theft.

    You can’t shoot the cop, even if he is brutalizing you (his buddies will kill you), and you can’t collect insurance on the time and money that you lose when you get sent to court for breaking one or more of a myriad of laws.

    This is why people in general actually fear and hate police, and it is with good reason. Most victimization at the hands of criminals is far less than the potential victimization at the hands of a nasty cop.

  49. I finally understand why Dave is anti-gun. Coke and Pepsi executives have bodyguards who carry guns. It’s all clear now.

  50. Elemenope,

    A good first step would be to eliminate police unions. Police have become like tenued teachers. It is well neigh impossible to fire one. Short of a felony conviction, no amount of bad behavior on a cop’s part will get them fired.

  51. I am only anti-gunnut. Guns should be legal.

  52. About 50-60 journalists die annually in the line of duty. One would need to compare ratios (deaths-per-journalist vs. deaths-per-police officer) to say for sure whether police work was indeed “more dangerous” than journalism work.

    I’m at work and can’t hunt down details, but I certainly imagine there are far more police officers out there than journalists. (There’s a fun state-of-things thesis for somebody.) So the numbers may shake out in such a way that journalism is in fact MORE dangerous than police work, relatively speaking.

  53. All deaths in interactions with police are deaths of civilians. Perhaps this failure to remember that cops are civilians is what is at the heart of the matter.

    Statistics reating to deaths of civilians are only relevant when talking about military actions.

    QFT!

  54. Russ R’s 10:12 question is a good one.

    How many people are killed by cops “in the line of duty?” I know of three here in British Columbia within the last year. Only one could be called justified.

  55. I don’t hate police, but I must admit that they sometimes make me nervous. A couple of weeks ago, I had do deal with the cops as a regular citizen involved in an unpleasant situation. I was not in trouble, nor was there any question about that. The cop was a friend of mine, who I had worked with and who has been to my house socially. But I was still nervous, simply because of the power that cops wield.

  56. About 50-60 journalists die annually in the line of duty.

    Not in the USA they don’t.

  57. “True enough. You Hit’n’Runners with guns, don’t forget to keep them locked when not in use:”

    I suspect we have different notions of ‘in use’. Mine would include ‘accessible as a defensive weapon within a useful timeframe’. Which means, when I’m home, there are loaded guns laying around. Sorry.

  58. SIV | December 28, 2007, 11:13am | #

    About 50-60 journalists die annually in the line of duty.

    Not in the USA they don’t.

    Still, one does have daydreams…

  59. I suspect we have different notions of ‘in use’. Mine would include ‘accessible as a defensive weapon within a useful timeframe’. Which means, when I’m home, there are loaded guns laying around. Sorry.

    Let me be clearer: the policeman who was shot to death in the story should not have been negligent by not allowing his son to access his gun and shoot him to death in the living room.

    When I was young, the next door neighbor’s son similarly accessed his father’s guns and shot his mother to death on our front porch.

    Remember, guns don’t kill people — negligently allowing improper access to guns kills people. See the story I linked about the dead policeman if you don’t believe me.

  60. I’m surprised that they didn’t charge the fry cook at the nearest McDonald’s with capital murder.

    …snicker…

    I seem to recall a roundup of doughnut shop owners. But for reasons known only to the “authorities” they were quickly released.

  61. Of course, there’s a big difference. Fire/EMS folks are not LEOs, and we don’t want to be. Our job is to help, period.

    CC, that was exactly my point. I wasn’t trying to say that FFs and EMTs don’t interact with people; I was trying to point out that their “adversary” (if we were to game theory this shit up) in the game against whom they act which determines the difference between a positive and a negative overall outcome is not the person but rather the fire/injury. The important difference with cops is that they, by virtue of their job, are “playing” against active agents which are people and so the decisions are harder to game out.

    john, re: police unions.

    I hate professional unions and guilds with a passion. They are worse that worthless and in many cases cause actual harm. (This is in contrast with service/manufacturing/industry union which I believe can play an important and useful role.) You make a good point that since police do not generally fear for their jobs if they make a bad call (or are just generally assholes) they are not motivated by consequences to be concerned with things other than their own well-being.

  62. Arsen beat me to it. Good show!

    Also,

    I suspect we have different notions of ‘in use’. Mine would include ‘accessible as a defensive weapon within a useful timeframe’. Which means, when I’m home, there are loaded guns laying around. Sorry.

    In my concealed carry class the term-of-art for what we both do is having a firearm “in service”. Like my Benelli pump, it has a shell chambered most of the time and a full magazine. The Saiga-12 has a loaded magazine nearby, but it is usually put away.

  63. I feel soory for drug dealers. I bet their on-the-job death rate is much higher than that of the police, yet they don’t even get an employer’s life insurance policy with an extra payout for dying on the job, let alone a parade. Dealers get no health insurance, no 401K, no pension, no paid vacation days, no travel or legal expenses paid, unreliable “union” protection, and not even a fixed salary.

  64. I feel sorry for drug dealers. I bet their on-the-job death rate is much higher than that of the police, yet they don’t even get an employer’s life insurance policy with an extra payout for dying on the job…

    I’m pretty sure that most Pharmaceutical Company CEOs, Doctors, and Pharmacists have pretty good insurance policies and retirement programs.

    I could be wrong, though.

  65. bigbigslacker,

    I believe there is some myth-dispelling of that notion in the book Freakonomics.

  66. some random stuff:

    * People become firefighters because they want to help others. People become cops because they want to control others.

    Said by a d.j. (I don’t remember his name) during a call-in segment about “Have you ever dated a cop?” several years ago. A lot of women who called in had stories about L.E. databases being abused for personal purposes (eg – hitting on women).

    * God created cops because firemen need heroes too. (here, more here).

    * Are Firefighters Really Heroes? (Slate, October 31, 2003). A lot of parallels to police officers re PR and unions, minus the jackbooted thugishness.

  67. Kill a Cop…Go 2 Jail…

  68. I don’t have any recent stats, but when I used to pay attention, the worker’s comp rate for cops wasn’t any different than constrution workers. Fire fighters OTOH had a much higher rate. Apparently fire fighting is more risky than police work.

  69. “Like I said, in a very real sense their job is to die so you and I don’t have to.”

    The ways things are going now, I’d rather take my chances without them. And it should be pointed out that this is no more than a matter of political rights.

  70. I feel soory for drug dealers I bet their on-the-job death rate is much higher

    Years ago I knew a drug dealer named Rich. They found his Porsche in Carson City. When the snow melted they found his body in the mountains on a dirt road with four bullet holes in it.

    That’s enough evidence for me.

  71. You know something else? Pimpin’ ain’t easy either.

    Government employees should not be represented by a union for any reason other than as a social function.

  72. a really dangerous job in US- POTUS

    218 man-years –4 work related fatalities =

    54.5 deaths per 100,000 per year

  73. sam harvey

    Doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of applicants for the job.

  74. Doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of applicants for the job.

    Perhaps not, but the quality of the applicant pool is questionable.

  75. the quality of the applicant pool is questionable.

    Amen.

    I think we could improve the quality if we took two steps:
    A) A simple mathematical and literacy test for all voters. They’d only need to demonstrate the ability to read a sentence and answer a multiple choice question about it and solve a simple system of equations (“x + y = 3; x + 2y = 4, what does ‘x’ equal?”).
    B) For candidates for office, a much tougher exam. (Sample question for Congressmen/Members of Parliament: “Explain Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage, provide at least 3 examples how this affects people working in your District/Constituency.) The questions would get tougher for higher offices.

    I realize this wouldn’t prevent learned idiots from gaining office, but it would cut down a lot of fools. I doubt Huckabilly, for example, could answer a question about evolutionary principles.

  76. Workers Comp rates wouldn’t correlate entirely with profession deadliness. Speaking from an actuarial point of view, death isn’t the most expensive medical event a person can face – long term disability is.

  77. Apparently it’s not too dangerous to get a topless woman to strike up conversations with men in a public park and then arrest the men.

    Robin Garrison, an off-duty 42-year-old firefighter, was walking in Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio, in May when he saw a woman sunbathing topless under a tree.

    He approached her and they started talking and getting comfortable, the woman smiling and resting her foot on his shoulder at one point.

    Eventually, she asked to see Garrison’s penis; he unzipped his pants and complied.

    Seconds later, undercover police officers pulled up in a van and arrested Garrison…

    This one’s blog worthy, I think.

  78. http://www.theothersideofkim.com/index.php/tos/single/11325/

    22. Everyone seems to think there is something unusual with the continuing running, attempting to escape, and attempting to kill cops. Let’s stop and think about this a minute. The years since Reagan has seen the continual raising of time in jail and lowering of the requirements for arrest, prosecution, and taking of one’s property. If one is about to lose everything you have worked for plus spend the next 20 to life in prison, what incentive does one have to obey and go peacefully? Furthermore, in my experience stops are more and more driven by pretexts such as profiling and not wearing seat belts to open us citizens,,,uh serfs up for an “investigation” on the side of the road based on one being nervous. Cops seem to have no people skills and base their interactions on intimidation. The people you can intimidate are usually peaceful citizens that want no trouble. The one’s that won’t intimidate will only use the intimidation as an excuse to attack. In other words, these tactics create the very thing that is not wanted. Add in the stories of citizens being tased for refusing to sign a ticket and it starts to change the attitude of citizens.

    I have been stopped, yelled at, told I was going to jail, etc when I didn’t jump as fast as the cop wanted me to. I used to be very supportive of law enforcement. After this experience and the intimidation faced even when being stopped for a head light being out, my attitude has changed. Now I wouldn’t piss on a leo to put them out if they were on fire.

  79. I say we compare the people injured and killed by cops each year to the number of cops injured and killed…

  80. It seems to me that we could prevent many accidental on-the-job cop deaths by insisting that all officers not in direct pursuit of a suspect obey the traffic laws — no speeding, no running red lights, no cranking up the siren just because they’re in a hurry to get to Krispy Kreme.

  81. Excellent article. I think that Law Enforcement in general has become fixated on the paramilitary solutions and have ignored a lot of alternatives.

  82. Insight into Dave W’s mixed up brain?

    “When I was young, the next door neighbor’s son similarly accessed his father’s guns and shot his mother to death on our front porch.

    Remember, guns don’t kill people — negligently allowing improper access to guns kills people. See the story I linked about the dead policeman if you don’t believe me.

  83. Good essay. Lots of hogwash in the comments, though. Expectedly, the “cops as heroes” fanboys and salivating drooling authoritarian-figure worshipers are here to tell us how dangerous a cop’s job really is.

    What a sack of fecal matter.

    Cops who are injured in their work almost always have provoked the violent response by virtue of their authoritarian, command-and-control perspective.

    This is rooted in the subtle but dangerous shift from

    peace officer

    to

    law enforcement officer

    and though I shouldn’t have to explain this to the SWAT-team snuggle bunnies, I will do it for completeness’ sake.

    A peace officer strives to keep the peace. He views each peace-breaching situation as a dispute between two people with whom he shares his town. In other words, between two people who are his equal. Not his inferiors. Not his “subjects” and most assuredly not “civilian perps.”

    Despite decades of reverent boolshyte bad TV drama focusing on the “dangerous, heroic” nature of police work, policemen find themselves in need of tools of the modern warrior.

    These are not tools of diplomacy. They are not tools of peace-making.

    A “law enforcement officer” tells you his purpose in his title. ENFORCEMENT. Therefore he will be a literalist on the primacy of the law, and a subjectivist in the interpretation of that law for “enforcement” sake. His subjectivity comes from the perspective of authority = primary.

    This is not the means to achieve peace. It is the means to provoke war, to sow division.

    Ironically, police have it within themselves to determine how dangerous is their job. Whatever dangers they encounter, the dangers are a product of the society that the policeman lives in. The policeman has an obligation to increase tranquility.

    And as bears repeating in this doubletalk era of human history, war is not peace.

  84. Said by John —

    The fact is that if someone wants to shoot you there is not a damn thing you can do about it. My action will be your reaction everytime. You could arm cops with RPGs and unless you just shot everyone you walked up to, it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good. If a cop pulls me over and I am crazy enough and desparate enough to want to kill him, I will blow his head off before he can draw his weapon. That is why being a cop is a dangerous job.

    There’s a pretty glaring logical flaw to that analysis, John. In fact, the flaw is so huge that it’s improper to call what you wrote an analysis of any sort. It is instead a misinformed bit of fiction.

    If the someone “who wanted to blow the head off” someone makes a cop’s job dangerous, it makes being a human equally dangerous. Cops get no special treatment. Someone who is determined to blow someone else away doesn’t automatically mean that a cop has the hardest or most dangerous job.

    Gaping logical flaw, John. Back to the drawing board.

  85. Last comment —

    John says he used to be a criminal defense lawyer.

    I bet he cannot provide proof of that assertion’s truth. I’d bet a dozen donuts on it.

  86. “The Wendigo”, wins the prize for this thread. In spite of the fact that there were virtually ZERO ‘”cops as heroes” fanboys’ commenting, he comes here to give us a lecture.

    If there is anything more annoying than the leftist who comes here to tell us what silly unrealistic people we are it’s the “more libertarian than thou” doofus who is here to tell us how far short of the ideal we come.

  87. Isaac Bartram,

    Your whole post fails in its goals, inasmuch as I am not a “leftist” and I hold no partisan positions.

    I am simply a person who has seen the actions of the police taken to their illogical, immoral points of “command and control” instead of being a peace officer.

    What is it you find problematic in Peace Officer status, Isaac? Can you tell me?

    What is your theory on the role of police, Isaac? Can you tell me?

    What do you have to offer of substance, Isaac? Can you tell me?

    Or are you just here to pretend at polite polemics that accuse everyone you disagree with of being a “leftist,” and offering no logic or rationale in your posts?

    Huh? Care to share, Isaac?

    Oh, and as to the prize? You are urged to make it a suppository.

  88. PS to Isaac Bartram —

    I don’t know what was your point about “more libertarian than thou” because I’m not a libertarian, at least not in the modern Ron Paul mode of idiocy that masquerades as liberty.

    I believe in JS Mill’s “harm principle.” I think that the police should do no harm. EVER. And if they do harm, they should be discharged permanently from police service and any quasi-police work, including detective/investigator, security guard, prison guard, or military. Ideally they should be put into labor camps where they are treated by the camp boss in the same manner the former copper used to treat the “civilians” and “perps” that he loved to “bust heads” on.

    Isaac Bartram lives in a fantasy world where policemen are noble, and every “perp” is clearly a criminal who deserves arrest.

    Isaac Bartram appears to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal. A few jokers short of a 54-pickup deck. A few AAA cells short of a nuke power reactor.

    But he sure thinks himself clever and funny, despite his posts proving the contrary!

    As I saw the comments in this thread, Isaac Bartram, they were police fanboys in significant part. You’d be included, based on your response at 2:44 pm on 12/30.

  89. Aren’t police officers always in the pursuit of criminals regardless of whether patrolling or in the line of fire?

  90. “JOHN”
    Your and idiot. No, cops shouldn’t get military weapons like RPG’s, nobody would be safe! My father is a cop, he has never hurt, hit, punched, assaulted, or verbally abused anyone that hasn’t pulled a weapon or hit him first! Police go through a lot more shit than you can even imagine! My father has been sued several times, all of which were retarded! Maybe try talking to some cops and listen to their story’s. Your whole view point on cops will change. Unless your a fucking drugy all coked up.

  91. This is the most ridiculous article i have ever read. whoever wrote this article can’t say a damn thing to police officers about the job, or how they do the job. People are so ungrateful for the officers and other public servants that keep them safe. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK POLICE OFFICERS AROUND THE COUNTRY. I KNOW YOU HAVE A TOUGH JOB AND IT IS EXTREMELY ADMIRABLE OF YOU TO KEEP ALL OF US SAFE. ON BEHALF OF EVERYONE ONE IN THE COUNTRY, WE THANK YOU!!!!!!!

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