That 'War on Police' in 2015 Sure Was a Miserable Failure, Wasn't It?

As 2015 nears end, the numbers simply don't match the panic.


They're winning the War on Dogs, though.
Credit: OregonDOT / photo on flickr

Like every other "War on X" America embarks on, this year's War on Police was a complete disaster. Can't we do anything right? This alleged war resulted in the second-safest year for police officers in U.S. history. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko takes note over at The Washington Post that as 2015 comes to an end, there's been no real War on Police and there's been no real nationwide crime wave either. Balko explains the difference between comparing just this year's stats to last year's and the overall trend:

It's true that some cities like Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit saw a significant and troubling rise in homicides this year. But those are isolated cases. In other cities, homicide were up, but only after long and historic drops.

Here in Nashville, for example, we saw 67 murders in 2015, up from 41 last year. (The figures are for all of Davidson County). At first blush, that seems like an alarming increase. And it has caused much consternation among politicians, the media and community leaders, with lots of calls for "action," whatever that means.

But last year was a historic low for the city and represented the floor of an overall 10-year decline. This year's total of 67 murders only takes the city back where it was in 2009, and is right at about the 10-year average of 66. For comparison, between 1971 and 1989, annual murders in Davidson County usually numbered in the 80 and 90s, and never dipped below 67 — and that was with 20 to 25 percent less population than the county has today.

And these are just raw numbers. The ten-year drop since there were more than 90 murders in 2005 has taken place in one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. Raw crime figures can drop only so low, particularly in a city that's growing by the day. And once they are at historic lows, even small increases look large when expressed as percentages.

Nevertheless, people typically think crime is getting worse, even though it's not.  Read more from Balko and the stats he's using from the American Enterprise Institute here. Even leaders of law enforcement are trying to point out that crime is declining, not increasing.

Now as for deaths caused by police officers, The Washington Post (and The Guardian as well) launched a database this year tracking fatal police shootings, because federal statistics are extremely incomplete. As of today, the Post records 959 people killed in police shootings. They note that more than 700 of them were in connection with a range of violent crimes like hostage situations and carjackings. Independent site KilledByPolice.net has a higher number, 1,168. If their numbers are accurate (note that this site documents killing by police, not just fatal shootings), this would be an increase over last year's estimate of 1,108.

NEXT: Almost Half of 184 People Killed by Georgia Cops Since 2010 Were Unarmed and/or Shot in the Back

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  1. You’re kidding, right? Who do you think is making all those cops get into traffic accidents? Themselves? No, it’s civilians. Troublesome, non-compliant, law-breaking-without-a-personal-safety-excuse civilians.

    1. The jaywalkers are coming right at us!

  2. even small increases look large when expressed as percentages.

    Yep. Which is why I distrust any piece of news that expresses changes in percentages. Percent of what? But they never tell you.

  3. this would be an increase over last year’s estimate of 1,108.

    And, on a percentage basis, not insignificant, either. Around 5.5% YOY increase.

    1. We don’t have enough data to estimate the standard deviation, though. We have no way of knowing how significant this increase is.

  4. Based on confirmed kills, if there is a war on cops, the cops are obviously winning.

    1. Time to call…BROKEN ARROW

    2. This is why they need military hardware. It ups their kill/death ratio.

  5. Sorry, but the narrative is independent of the facts. Cops feel like there is a war against them, so therefore it must be true. Facts, shmacts. Nobody cares about stupid shit like that.

    1. Well, we did hurt their feelings. So there’s that.

      1. They do believe that though. It’s rammed into their head in the academy, and every day by their superiors.

        A year or so ago someone (not me) wrote a sarcastic letter to the local paper asking the police to parade their military gear like a good dictatorship. Well, the mayor didn’t like it one bit. He wrote a scathing response talking of how cops need military gear because there is a war being waged on them, and how they need military gear to combat criminals with fully automatic machine guns and battle armor. Seriously. So for fun I looked at the department’s website to see how many officers have fallen to automatic gun fire, and surprisingly it was zero. Two officer fatalities in the last hundred years for that department: a car accident in the 80s and someone shot in the 30s. War on cops? Yeah. My ass.

        1. I watched a mall cop get free coffee at the quickie mart this morning. I’m in my military uniform right behind him (paying for my shit). The cashier mentions it to the mgr who had walked up. I chuckled and clarified that he wasn’t actually a cop, but a security guard in a pretty convincing uniform driving a sedan with a light bar on top. He of course didn’t hesitate in accepting the coffee

    2. Well, we do know that a cop’s perception is all that matters in individual cases, so why not when we collectivize them as well?

    3. Sorry, but the narrative is independent of the facts.

      There is a growing consensus in the law enforcement community that a heightened and increasing state of aggression towards officers of the law could produce disastrous consequences. Local or transient dips in aggression do exist, but the upward trend, combined with possible feed-forward mechanisms could lead to a future where, in as little as 100 yrs., police precincts will be a thing of the past and local waterways and beachfront communities will be mired under feet of officers’ blood. One need only look at a planet like Venus, with it’s complete lack of law enforcement, to see where our Earth is headed.


    1. “Reason writer Stan Shackening calls for an expansion of the war on cops.”

      1. *rises to begin thunderous ovation*

  7. Here in Nashville, for example, we saw 67 murders in 2015, up from 41 last year……..But last year was a historic low for the city and represented the floor of an overall 10-year decline.

    That’s just the local weather, we’re talking about the global climate. The science is settled and all the experts agree – the war on cops is heating up and the apocalypse is a-comin’.

      1. +1 Francis..Ford…Cop-ola??

  8. This alleged war resulted in the second-safest year for police officers

    So the extra precautions taken due to the War on Cops were effective at mitigating deaths during the War on Cops. Good thing we saw this one coming. Bro-fists all around.


  9. Cops enforce the immoral War on Drugs. This causes chaos. Cops complain about the chaos they created. Job security.

  10. This is one war I can get behind. C’mon people, we don’t want to lose this one, do we? Time to step up our efforts!

  11. Nevertheless, people typically think crime is getting worse, even though it’s not.

    Just wait- after you have been raped by a terrorist, you’ll be singing a different tune!

      1. If you’re lucky. It’s that or a wet gargling noise.

  12. I’ve seen Facebook posts from the Fucktard wing of Team Red try to argue that a kid at Starbucks who refused to serve cops was evidence of a war on cops. Never mind that it was an isolated incident, the employee was punished, Starbucks issued a public apology, and it was a nonviolent expression of frustration with LEOs. It was a fucking act of war.

    1. Well, yeah. Failure to comply is a violent act of aggression. The cops could have shot the little bastard in the back and it would have been completely justified.

    2. Funny, when I was in a war, people shot at me with rockets, mortars, RPGs and AKs. Huh. I guess that time at the Green Beans Coffee in Bagram AF, when I got my coffee late, I was being WARRED UPON as well!

      1. The barista misunderstood what you meant by latte.

        1. *begins to narrow gaze….reconsiders and begins applauding*

  13. Cops have been forced to face grand juries; if that’s not a war on cops, what is?

  14. people typically think feel crime is getting worse


  15. Meanwhile, people are calling for a ban on toy guns, because it’s too hard for cops to resist shooting toy-gun-toting children. Obviously, the toy gun is the problem.

    Damn those toy gunz! Damn them all to Hell!

    1. What’s schadenfreude is that I know dozens of pro-2A members of Team Red that regurgitate nonsense like that.

  16. Guerilla War on cops?

    A Secret Service agent’s gun, badge, radio, handcuffs and flash drive were stolen in broad daylight Monday near the agency’s headquarters in Washington, according to a police report and sources briefed on the incident.

    The agent’s belongings were taken from his personal vehicle while it was parked on G Place in downtown Washington around 4 p.m. ET.

    Golly, who would ever guess somebody might steal your stuff off the back seat of your car in broad daylight in DC?

    1. Judging from how federal agents have been punished in the past, this guy is about to get a raise.

      1. And a voucher for one free night with a prostitute in a country of his choice.

    2. “This will come in handy when I hire a prostitute and don’t want to pay her this weekend.”

        1. Yours flows better.

    3. I suspect he had that arrogant air about him that they all seem to have…”I am inviolable because I am one of the king’s men, and all those who dare cross me shall be made to suffer.” Therefore, it never even occurs to him that someone might break into his car and take his stuff. Lord knows how many times I’ve walked by an idling cop car with no one in it (usually at a Dunkin’ Donuts). In my younger and stupider days, I would’ve been sorely tempted to hop in and drive off, if only for a few blocks before I bailed out and ran the hell away, just to make the fu*ker have to explain how his cruiser drove itself into a fire hydrant.

      1. I suspect he had that arrogant air about him that they all seem to have.

        I think they are all just inept, because rarely do they receive negative consequences for their actions. I’m sure this guy is embarrassed, and maybe he will be relocated to a less appealing location or something, but he will not lose his job, and he will not be held accountable if his weapon and/or badge are used to commit crimes.

      2. Do you the police how much damage an be done with a stolen cops laptop ?

      3. Sorry I cannot type well when excited. =(

        Seriously though. A cops phone, or work laptop is worth more than it’s weight in gold to the right people. What an idiot.

  17. I rejoice everytime I hear on the news about some stupid cop getting clipped in the line of duty. Stupid punk cops.


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