Criminal Justice

More on the Non-Existent "War on Cops"


In my Monday column debunking the "war on cops" meme currently working its way through the media, I noted that fatal attacks on police officer deaths have dropped pretty dramatically over the last 25-30 years. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to this mostly unfortunate discussion of the column at an online forum for police officers. The thread itself gets pretty vicious. But one poster in that thread points out that if you look at numbers from the FBI's Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted database, non-fatal assaults on police officers are in decline as well.

A couple points. First, these figures are reported assaults, not convictions. Second, in my column I wrote that there are 850,000 cops on the beat. I got that figure from the Fraternal Order of Police. I suspect the variation is due to differing interpretations of who qualifies as a police officer. But if the figure for officers emloyed is actually higher than what you see in the table, then the percentage of police officers assaulted will be lower.

Overall, though, non-fatal assaults against law enforcement officers are in decline. Which means the downward trend in fatalities isn't necessarily due to better body armor, bulletproof vests or other police equipment.

The Internet, cell phone cameras, and video have made police more accountable and brought more exposure to bad cops. I don't doubt that this has fostered more skepticism of police authority, and even resentment at how infrequently bad actors held accountable. But there's just no evidence that more criticism of law enforcement, less respect for authority, or rising anti-government sentiment are manifesting as increased violence against police officers.

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  1. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to this mostly unfortunate discussion of the column at an online forum for police officers. The thread itself gets pretty vicious.

    You weren’t joking.

    1. On that note, I think I will not look at that link.

      If my head exploded all over my workstation, my employer might get upset.

      1. Head asplosions don’t count as normal depreciation for hardware used in tech fields?

    2. By the end it devolves into a sickening cops-are-the-best-of-all-humanity-lovefest.

      1. Can you post a few of the nastier posts? I have neither the time nor the stomach to go over there, but I’m curious how retarded it gets.

        1. It’s a Glock forum. You have to be pretty retarded to own a Glock in the first place.

          1. Yeah cuz they explode, amirite?

            1. Hey, I’m gettin’ ripped off then, cause MINE didn’t! I want an EXPLODING GLOCK!!!!

          2. Man, you know what never gets old? Gun model trolling. How could anyone own gun brand X, when clearly brand Y is infinitely superior? Anybody who buys brand X is condemning their family to die.

        2. There isn’t much, except one guy calling Balko a cop-hater…

          Maybe I’m turning into a cop-fellater, but I fail to see what’s so sickening about that thread. The guys there actually seemed pretty reasonable.

          1. They’re cops. It has to be sickening.
            It just has to.

        3. From post #30 “tow the party lien”

          1. I looked. It’s as boring as any other chat room–I mean thread.

          2. Someone has to tow the lion

        4. Oh, it’s pretty nasty:

          There’s definitely an anti-cop trend… Granted not all of the cop haters are trying to kill us. Some of them are writing news articles or posting on Internet messageboards.

          That “Fascist”
          And for that we should be thankful. However you never know how much it will take to move from just words to actions. It’s my opinion that very few people wake up one day and say, I wanna shoot at the police. If I made a guess is that you would find a pattern of talking themselves up to it, or watching/reading stuff to edge them up to that level.

          Dipshit #2 is implying that Radley wants to kill policemen, but is a coward, so he writes negatively about them instead.

          1. Dipshit #2 is implying that Radley wants to kill policemen, but is a coward, so he writes negatively about them instead.

            He also seems to have this fantastical sense of self-importance that there are people out there who are working themselves up to kill him – all it takes is reading a bunch of Hit and Run blog entries to get them worked up enough to actually do it!

        5. One idiot digs up someone else’s article to claim that Radley wants to free Mumia, and another idiot obliquely refers to the Ryan Frederick case. Everyone agrees that cops are under attack.

          1. Well that is a little outrageous.

          2. Of course they’re under attack! Everyone else is a criminal, after all.

          3. Cops should be under attack–when they are breaking down the door to a non-violent citizen’s house and other times when they are violating the law and not getting punished for it.

        6. No poster names because it doesn’t matter. Every graf is someone different:

          Roger that, I’ll stand down then. Sorry for the ruffled feathers. …

          No apology necessary. Feel free to remain and participate, by all means. …

          I continue to be impressed by the quality of cops on this forum. …

          I agree whole-heartedly with your point, that’s my point. …


          Well JSandi I am glad you finally fessed up. It wasn’t so bad, was it? Now people can understand you, and see you in a different light. …

          Criticism received and accepted. Taking my public flogging like I should. Sorry guys and gals. From here on out I will do my best to qualify any post I make. And if I should fail again. Ya’ll can use tasers next time. …

          It’s all good Brother. …

          1. The criticism the guy was getting was for trying to ‘incite’ them by posting the article.

    3. I was banned from AR15 for riding the retarded cops asses and antagonizing while asking them to prove their stupid positions.

      Okay I trolled them some too, it really is a weakness when dealing with testosterone ridden, shit for brains, mouth breathing, gun toting morons.

      1. I got banned without an explanation, but I think it was for saying Joseph Smith and Mohammed were equal frauds. I didn’t worry too much about it.

        1. This was supposed to go here…


      2. testosterone ridden, shit for brains, mouth breathing, gun toting morons

        That’ll show ’em! You’d never say it to their faces, but that’s what makes pretend tough-guy talk so much fun. It’s risk-free!

        1. Your manic phase is tiresome, anonopussy. Are you almost done?

        2. (trollfood>NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM(/trollfood>

  2. Of course it’s B.S.; the “war on cops” is just hysteria to prevent wage and benefit concessions and layoffs.

  3. Said it before, I’ll say it again:

    offer cops more money, better benefits, hold them to a higher standard(50% sentencing increases for offenses?), and make them wear a badge camera that records video and audio of everything they do on the clock(yes, even in the bathroom).

    If you want to wield the power to destroy people’s lives, you have to be utterly transparent, and you’ll be rewarded for it.

    1. …make them wear a badge camera that records video and audio of everything they do on the clock(yes, even in the bathroom.

      *contemplates the last 4 words. shudders*

      1. Since when was “shudder” a euphemism for masturbate?

        1. Since always, you mothershudderer.

        2. What isn’t a euphemism?

          1. euphamism pussyword

    2. Why pay them more to provide the service we expect already. The army of UAV’s being assembled throughout the country should be used to keep an eye on all the officers. Just imagine the sky filled with aircraft to help each officer or for us the ability to keep tabs on them all. Each citizen could log into the video files from home and just browse. What fun.

      1. PigCam!

        1. “hamcam?

    3. If we only paid the teachers more money they would perform better!

  4. Speaking of contempt for the law, I see that the Obama administration has been held in contempt for continuing its Gulf drilling moratorium after a judge ruled it illegal.

    Am I the only one seeing a pattern here?

    1. No, I see the pattern, too.

      How soon before we can just chuck that whole “rule of law” thing that keeps slowing down the Pres?

      1. at least negative 8 years….

    2. What’s the consequence?

      1. Exactly!

        1. Huh, you know I always thought that if America went bona fide fascist, it would be under a president that combined the worst traits of Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson.

          1. Agreed. He would be a combination of cyborg components with organic tissue genetically engineered to heal at accelerated rates. Once our guard is down, he would don the Richtid War Carapace.

            It’s a cliche quote, but to quote Sinclar Lewis: “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in a flag, with a Coltan exoskeleton and a Decimator-class arm cannon.”

            That man’s political prescience was uncanny.

  5. Hey, they aren’t experts in statistics. Give them a break!

    I wonder how the number of cops has grown in comparison to the US population and population shifts from city to suburb compared to the growth in cops.

    1. In the linked thread many of the posters ignored the statistics for one of two reasons:

      1) Balko is a “anti-cop POS”

      2) Personal experience showed them things were worse now

      There was also one guy that claimed the ‘numbers show’ the ‘war on cops’ is going on. Of course, he didn’t provide any of these numbers, or comment on the ones that had been posted by others clearly showing the opposite trend.

      1. I don’t read the comments of Balko linked threads. I learned my lesson a while ago.

  6. Also, Radley, clearly this is a result of the excellent gun laws (and other laws) that have been put into effect over this time period, thus reducing attacks on the po-po.

    Therefore, we need MORE LAWS to FURTHER RESTRICT the rights actions of “civilians” [sic] so that we continue to see reductions in the number of assaults on those who Protect and Serve the community.

    *barf…sorry I couldn’t hold it*


  7. dunnnnnnnphy, oh DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNPHY….

    1. I already covered it. He can sit back and relax.

  8. Dammit, Balko! You’re missing the point!

    It has nothing to do with numbers. How do you expect us to give them more and more authority unless the populace readily accepts that authority? If we can show that the populace is out of line, then we can give the police more power to keep them in line.

  9. Them poor ol’ bosses need all the help they can get.

  10. Radley

    Much of what was written in those comments came back to cops are better trained today, better armor, radios, etc.

    One thing that would be interesting on the training front: Cops (as is the case here in Seattle with the woodcarver incident) SEEM to be a shoot first, f**k the jerk catching the bullet mind set. But, I don’t have any information on that. It would be interesting if you’d turn your research abilities to the question of “is there a war on the citizenry by cops?” How many people have been shot by cops? Killed? How many are mistaken / unjustified / accidental? How many are justifiable? Questionable / indeterminate? Time histories using official Govt stats to compare side by side with the ones where the cops are on the receiving end of the violence.

    1. I was just about to ask this. Since Radley regularly writes about the LEO war on the public a statistical chart of the percentage of unlawful actions compared to calls answered would be enlightening.

      1. I think the numbers are too obscured for it to be truly useful. The police have always covered up their crimes, there’d be no way to tease apart legitimate shootings and the illegitimate ones on a bulk statistically basis.

        In simpler terms… do cops shoot more innocent people now, or was it just never reported at all when they did it in the past?

        1. That’s a good point. As near as I can tell, the government regards nearly all police shootings as legitimate.

          1. Sandwich – practically, yes.

            BUT, even if the justified / unjustified numbers couldn’t be teased out, it would still be enlightening to see how many time a citizen was shot by the cops, justified or not.

            Come on Radley….. With as many collateral damage stories on the drug war as you do, this ought to be a slam dunk for you.

    2. Hey! They aren’t experts!

      Guess who I am…

    3. I am sure the total of wrongly killed citizens of the US of A will far outnumber the amount of police killed in the war against them.

      1. But…officer safety…something…

    4. There is a war on citizens being carried out by cops at this very moment. It is not a secret; in fact it is a large and well-funded initiative. It has been going on since 1971.

      1. 1917. FIFY.

    5. Good point. It would make an illuminating comanion piece to the one done for CATO a while back on the militarization of LEOs. Probably VERY illuminating. And while it might not show a statistical uptick, it may well indicate that the brazen butt covering for the incidents that do happen is rampant.

  11. If there really isn’t a war on cops, it does beg the question “why not?” They’re certainly at war with the people. Are we not allowed to fight back in this “war”?

    1. Who is stopping you?

      1. Lack of popular support and military hardware, against the fact that a submissive attitude and pale skin will usually help you avoid trouble. The camel’s back can still hold quite a few straws.

  12. “Less respect for authority” what the hell is that? Why the fuck do people that go through a low level education at the local community college think they deserve to be respected as soon as they pin on a badge.

    When the hell did people get elevated to the level of saint due to their chosen profession? Oh wait thats right 9-11 knighted the profession.

    1. Don’t forget us..were heroes, too.

  13. ” I suspect the variation is due to differing interpretations of who qualifies as a police officer.”

    Just because you work a desk job and push pencils all day doesn’t mean you’re immune to being a casualty of the war on cops. Haven’t you seen Terminator 1?

  14. Even if their interpretation of the data was correct, that would only indicate an increase in violent acts against police officers. That’s not the same thing as a “war”.

    A war is organized violence. Do they have any evidence–or even speculation–as to who is organizing this “war on cops”? Or why?

    I suspect that a real war on cops would be far bloodier than anything they’ve seen.

    1. Yeah, if they’re crying and whining about the random, the uncoordinated, and the circumstantial things happening today, they’d be quitting faster than in New Orleans after Katrina.

    2. I think they are just jumping on the “blame everything on nasty things other people say” bandwagon. It’s the general mood of anti-authority that organizes this war. Or something.

      1. No – the commenter upthread nailed it – this is directly related to pension and funding obligations and the fact that cuts are going to be made because there’s no other option.

  15. From some of the cops I’ve talked to, even the reported incidents of violence against cops are highly exaggerated. For example, spitting at a cop counts as an assault; for another accidents at home often get turned into “on-the-job” injuries.

    Most employees work the system of their profession, it’s the pride-and-entitlement aspect of it that is particularly galling.

    1. A little while back we had a deputy scratch himself on a barbed wire fence while chasing a suspect. The suspect was given an “Assault on a peace officer” charge because of the scratch.

      1. And don’t forget the murder charges when a cop gets into a high-speed chase and drives into a tree.

        The numbers have been going down for so long that they’ve had to fudge and exaggerate them to make the trend look worse than it is.

  16. From the GT thread:

    LE’s self-initiated Officer Survival movement that started in the early 1970s

    There’s a chilling fucking phrase.

  17. A quick glance at the statistics also shows disproportionate incidents in the South and Mountain West.

    These are the areas where the “tough sheriff” sterotype comes from. Or should I say “redneck sheriff”?

    I’m more convinced that these incidents are excuses to lock up brown people. That fact that the incidents are trending downwards is a good sign that the redneck sheriff is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

  18. Okay I read some of the posts. At the risk of sounding like an “Anarchist-lite,” I have to say that forum is like reading the essays of remedial English students at the local failing inner city high school. Jesus fucking christ, I’m a grammar moron and I make those people look bad.

    That’s not a public perception, that’s the perception of a bunch of Anarchist-lites, calling themselves Libertarians, who think they are somehow smarter than everyone else and have an grossly overinflated sense of self-worth.

    Earlier this afternoon I checked the FBI’s 2000 thru 2009 LEOKA stats. Except for 2009, the trend since 2000 is that the number of assaults on LEOs have increased. They were pretty much in the 57,000 – 61,000 assaults/year range. Given the LEO population was about 500,000 LEOS, that’s slightly over 10-percent of all LEOS are assaulted each year. (Seriously, how fucking stupid do you have to be to contradict your own fucking argument? The assaults are increasing while the percentage assaulted remains constant! Statistics, how do it work?)

    So what your saying, to butcher the late, great Mel Brooks “what we got here is one of them self hating Cops”.

    JSandi’s spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are not up to the standards of the ancient knuckle dragger LEO’s still around.

    If he’s going to pose, at least get a program to check to spelling/grammar… (RZ law?)

    OP, NO friggin way are you in LE. If you spewed this crap to ANY agency YOU would be crucified by your own guys. Not to mention you are a **ssy, with too much time to research your agenda. What the heck, get a ticket once and feel you were screwed over?

    Radly Balko is a died in the wool POS cop hater.

    And NOTHING that jerkoff has to say is worth discussing.

    I think I speak for everyone here (with over 10,000 posts in Cop Talk, I’d like to think so) when I ask that you take all of these anti-LE threads and cram them up your ass.

    We come here to relax and shoot the **** and trade information and ideas, not to whip ourselves like Arthur Dimmsdale in the closet with a bloody scourge, because of some percieved NEW public opinion about why cops suck.

    Newsflash, there have always been anti-cop anti-establishment types out there. They just didn’t have an internet powered soapbox to spread their stupidity.

    Seriously, take this place for what it is and act like the cop you claim to be, or GTFO. (at least he has read a book, maybe was it a movie too?)

    I continue to be impressed by the quality of cops on this forum. (Seriously, this is like being crowned king retard.)

    Anyone that puts their hands on me, get my hands put on them right back… And it rarely ends well for the other party. Anyone who doesn’t agree, or understand why, isn’t a cop. Even if they might wear a uniform.

    The OP is obviously a troll. I don’t care what he claims, or if he does happen to have a job in LE. Based on the amount of his board violations already pointed out, I’m just counting the time he’s still allowed to post here. At the least, I’ve added another to my ignore list. (respect my authoretah!)

    I googled Balko’s work on behalf of Mumia. I’ve read enough to see he’s an anti-cop douche.

    Just one: (Hello, I will speak slowly. That article was written by someone else you fucking moron.)

    There are a whole lot of special people floating around that thread and that forum. The lack of self-awareness is astounding.

    1. “slightly over 10-percent of all LEOS are assaulted each year”

      Certainly we can improve on this…

    2. Gun forums in general are the worst. They must be like 1-2 steps above the troglodytes that comment on youtube. I can almost understand why so many reasonable people hate guns and fear gun owners.

  19. Someone needs to link a comment or two back to that thread…

    (kick that turd!!!)

  20. But there’s just no evidence that more criticism of law enforcement, less respect for authority, or rising anti-government sentiment are manifesting as increased violence against police officers.

    They won’t let that stop them from pushing that story line.

    Just like violent rhetoric caused the Tucson shootings.

  21. What’s up with the huge spike in 1992? Were the presidential nominating conventions particularly brutal that year?

  22. If there were evidence of greater violence against the police, you sure as fuck wouldn’t see it here. When has this shitty little blog posted anything that doesn’t support what libertoid assholes already believe?

    1. Some posted a ton on Obama…

    2. You suck.

    3. When has HuffPost posted anything that liberal assholes don’t believe? HURR DURR, that’s when.

  23. The hard part about hearing how law enforcers talk about their profession is the way they see themselves and the way they see the public. They are some sort of embattled cadre of protectors who must support each other because of the hostile nature of their heroic calling. The (unintended) result is that when a bully becomes a cop, the other cops shield his bad behavior out of their sense of loyalty against persecution.

    The public, meanwhile, is somewhere between a flock to be herded and a mob to be contained. So law enforcers have an adversarial relationship with those they are theoretically supposed to serve. It would probably improve dramatically if the drug war stopped.

    Contrary to the cop opinions on that board, my impression is that cops always act way more entitled than regular citizens. How many regular citizens attack and threaten people who point cell phone cameras at them in public places?

    1. Also, I cannot stress this enough, but perhaps the single most damaging thing cops can do for their national reputation is to needlessly shoot people’s dogs. If cops want to improve their collective reputation, stop murdering Snoopy and Lassie for barking behind their fences.

    2. It’s called the thin blue line and it gets progressively worse as you get into SWAT and the 1* retards.

      It would be funny how highly they think of themselves and the reality of the situation if it weren’t so fucking sad.

      1. Yeah, thin blue line. Well, the job is dangerous. Of course, they chose to expose themselves to the risk, but there’s honor and heroism in taking that risk. And that honor and heroism get canceled out when you start bitching about how people don’t respect you enough.

        If you aren’t doing heroic things for their own sake, but only for recognition, then you aren’t a hero.

        1. I’ve worked two jobs that are more dangerous according to every statistic I’ve seen. I don’t think the people I worked with ever thought that they as a group were better than anyone else, maybe a little less stable mentally in one of the jobs, but definitely not superior.

  24. Not sure what y’all are reading, but I read that forum from page 2-5 (the last page) and the thread ended up being a pretty good discussion about good cops and bad cops, and an acknowledgment in the main that the public perception of police is an issue caused by the police, not some irrational hatred of police by the citizenry. Seems like a pretty good bunch of cops on glocktalk. I hope it’s officers like them that I have to deal with, if I ever have to deal with police at all, and not the kind that beat down a Rodney King or who try to confiscate cell phone cameras. Those guys on glocktalk seem A-OK. It’s the folks here on that need to stop hyperventilating.

    1. I completely agree and your outstanding post deserves a troll treat.

  25. OK, I followed the link on Monday’s thread that listed deaths by occupation:

    Serious question: Not to disparage some of our brothers-in-arms here who have Jd’s, but how did lawyers not even make the white-collar list?

    Did no one ever read Shakespeare?

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