The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
USA Today reports that "The number of police officers shot and killed in the USA is 44% higher than at this time last year following the Dallas ambush Thursday night that left five officers dead, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund." And indeed last year there were, according to the group, 41 fatal shootings; the 26 so far this year puts us on pace for about 50 fatal shootings in 2016, about 22 percent more than last year. (The 44 percent number is because only 18 of the 41 killings last year came by this time of the year.)
But if one looks at the fund's data for 2005 to 2014, one sees that (a) 2015's 41 fatal shootings was unusually low, and (b) there is a good deal of year-to-year variation. Indeed, the only three years from 2005 to 2015 that saw fewer than 49 fatal shootings of police officers were 2008 (41), 2013 (33), and 2015 (41), and most years saw at least as big a change in raw numbers as we're expecting for 2015 to 2016. Most important, if you average the totals from 2005 to 2015, you get almost 53 fatal shootings per year—about the pace we're seeing for this year.
I share the sorrow and the anger over the murders of the police officers in Dallas, and indeed over murders of police officers generally. But we shouldn't let the accident that there were fewer fatal police shootings than normal in 2015 make us worry that there's any broad upward trend.