New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told CNN's Piers Morgan last night that he doesn't "understand why police officers across this country don't stand up collectively and say we're going to go on strike, we're not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what's required to keep us safe."
We've been hearing a lot of that recently. Earlier this year, The New York Times reprinted a Department of Justice press release and slapped this lede on top of it: "As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: Rising numbers of police officers are being killed."
Bloomberg and The New York Times are both wrong:
- In 2008, ten times more civilians regular people were killed by cops than cops were killed by perps.
- In 2011, 72 cops were shot and killed in the entire U.S.; in L.A. County alone, cops shot and killed 54 suspects the same year–22 percent of those people were unarmed.
- As Scott Reeder reported at Reason this morning, "Farmers, ranchers, commercial fishermen, loggers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, construction workers, pilots, steel workers, roofers, and others are far more likely to face death on the jobs than police or firefighters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."
- And as Choire Sicha wrote earlier this year, "2008 was the ten-year low for police officers being killed, and 2012 is, so far, year-to-date, down 49% from last year."
Bloomberg, the commander of "the seventh biggest army in the world" went on to say that "police officers want to go home to their families. And we're doing everything we can to make their job more difficult, but more importantly, more dangerous, by leaving guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them and letting people who have those guns buy things like armor piercing bullets."
The statistics say that the jobs of police officers are getting increasingly safer. After all, even the smallest departments now have access to battle-tested body armor, weaponry, vehicles, and unmanned drones; SWAT and raid training courtesy of outfits like Academi (the company formerly known as Blackwater now trains officers "who conduct warrant service, fugitive apprehension, SWAT operations and drug search warrants who are in need of sound tactics and techniques"); asset forfeiture funds from the Department of Justice; and a neutered-and-spayed 4th Amendment, courtesy of the United States Supreme Court.
Thanks to all of that, cops are more likely than ever to return safely to their families every night.
But what about the rest of us? What about Kelly Thomas, who screamed for his father while five cops beat him to death? Or Patricia Cook, shot to death by a deranged alcoholic with a badge? Or Andrew Scott, killed during a wrong-door raid? Or Nick Christie, gagged and pepper-sprayed to death by prison guards? Or Seth Adams, shot four times by a cop behind his family business, then left to die? Or Wendell Allen, who was unarmed when a New Orleans cop shot and killed him during a raid? Or Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old New Yorker shot and killed by plainclothes cops for trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet? Or Kyle Miller, killed by Colorado police for waving a BB gun in the air? Or Todd Blair, killed by Utah police for raising a golf club above his head?
That's a smattering of names from the last year or so. A complete list is impossible, though you could spend months culling names from local media outlets. It would be significantly longer if we included people who were shot, but didn't die; or people who were just shot at by cops. It would be exponentially longer if we included people who were beaten, intimidated, wrongly arrested/incarcerated, or otherwise abused by police officers.
Didn't these folks want to go home to their families? Didn't they want to be safe when they were in their homes with their families?
They didn't get memorials. Their hometowns didn't shut down traffic for their funerals. The mayor didn't speak at their prayer vigil, if they had a prayer vigil. Their congressmen did not speechify about them on C-SPAN. No one proposed laws in their honor. No city or state official called for a national conversation about anything.
In most cases, here's what happened, and often happens: Cops who kill get a paid vacation, and the local district attorney, or state attorney determines that protocol was followed. The cop comes back with a tan and a mandate. A big ugly shrug is standard operating procedure.
Maybe Bloomberg is right; maybe America's cops should go on strike.