Police

FBI Stats Show 'War on Police' Claim Still Not Accurate

Final numbers confirm fewer police killed in 2015 than many previous years.

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Blue Lives Mattter
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

The FBI has released its final numbers of the number of police killed in 2015 and they match the preliminary data released in May. For all of 2015, 41 law enforcement officers were killed as a result of attacks. This is a drop in the number of police killed in 2014 by 10. More officers died as a result of accidents, 45.

Long-term trends suggest this is an even bigger decrease. In 2011 there were 72 officers killed. In 2006 there were 48.

But what about assaults against police? The FBI notes that 50,212 police officers were assaulted on duty in 2015 but doesn't compare to previous years. That's where things get interesting, because it turns out there was a noticeable increase in assaults against police in 2015. In 2014, when killings were higher, there were only 48,315 reported assaults. So even though fewer police were killed, more were attacked, enough to increase the change the ratio from nine to 10 when determining how many officers out of 100 were assaulted. The percentage of officers needing medical treatment for the assault remained about the same (28 percent).

The increase in assaults is a reversal of a trend. I noted back in May that assaults had been dropping since 2012. But we should be wary of assuming that a single year deviation is the start of a new trend.

We have two and a half months left before the end of 2016, and it does looks like we will see an increase in the number of police deaths this year compared to last year. The Officer Down Memorial Page currently lists 45 officers killed by gunfire and 10 officers killed by vehicle assaults. If those numbers hold up in the FBI's analysis that will indicate a spike, but it's nevertheless important not to mistake it for a trend or to think that specifically targeted ambushes against police will be more likely because of high-profile attacks or because of increasing protests against police behavior.

In July, Jesse Walker explored how one might figure out whether there actually was a war on cops and found the data wanting. Read more here.

NEXT: Can warrants for digital evidence also require fingerprints to unlock phones?

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  1. We have two and a half months left before the end of 2016, and it does looks like we will see an increase in the number of police deaths this year compared to last year.

    That’s all that is needed to claim a surge.

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  3. What is necessary to add to the officers assaulted tally? Treated for injuries? a conviction for assault or similar charge? A not prosecuted or not guilty charge, or even a claim of assault?
    I know where I’m placing my bet.

    1. Treated for injuries? Add it in.
      Conviction for assault? Add it in.
      An accusation? Add it in.
      Cop assaulted someone else, add it in.
      A cop was injured between the hours of midnight and 4 am but there’s no listing as an assault? Add it in – just deem it an assault,

      Call all the resulting statistics *assault related* injuries and we’ll be good. Its worked for the NHTSA and their ‘DUI’ numbers.

      1. Hey, works for “smoking-related” deaths.

    2. In my state, the charge of “assaulting a police officer” covers a wide range of conduct, including struggling against the handcuffs, running away, disobeying a command and not giving your true name when asked. They all get lumped into a generic, broad charge.

      I wager other states have similar issues.

  4. Even if there were such a thing as a “war on cops,” it’s pretty clear that the cops would be winning, based on body count alone.

    1. But the “Blue Lives Matter” coalition will still want to shoot black men carrying menacing cell phones, wallets, e-cigarettes, etc., “for fear of their lives”. To immunize LEOs against such frightening sights (black men carrying what, in a LEO’s wildest imaginings, MIGHT be a weapon), some have advocated masses of protesters “baiting” LEOs with toy handguns at the tip of fishing poles, for immunizing the LEOs (getting them used to the sheer terror of it all). My friend Leroy Titus has put up a web page with details, arguing that this is a bad idea? See http://www.ChurchofSQRLS.com\BLAM\ for details. ? Comments?

      1. Web site address mangled. Try http://www.churchofsqrls.com/BLAM/ … Copy-paste to browser if still mangled …

  5. More officers died as a result of accidents, 45.

    “Accidents”, eh?

    /sarc

  6. I don’t think there is anything that could reasonably be called a war on cops going on. But the cops actually have declared war on the American people and shouldn’t act surprised if some day the people they have declared war on start fighting back like it’s a war.

  7. The facts don’t matter, it’s the perception that counts. To-may-to/to-mah-to, cellphone/possible weapon, raising my hands/making a furtive movement, running away/coming right at us! – it’s all a matter of perception.

    1. Its all true – from a certain point of view.

  8. So a decrease in deaths proves there’s no war on police, but an increase in assaults on them proves nothing? Because that is merely a blip in the long-term trend?

    I am not arguing the “war on police” position, but the people who do are not arguing about a long-term trend. They are talking about an increase in attacks on police post-Ferguson (since 2014). So using numbers from 2012 is beside the point, and contrary to the headline, a recent increase in assaults does lend credence to the claim.

    The use of “long-term trend” is absurd in another way. Compared to 100 years ago, police are less racist. So then we should not be concerned about that issue today?

    1. I would be hesitant to accept an increase as an actual increase – deaths are deaths and there’s only so many ways you can fiddle-fuck the numbers. Guy died, it was either accidental or deliberate. The largest bit of massaging comes in whether you consider running yourself into a guardrail during a HSP to be ‘accidental’ or ‘deliberate’.

      ‘Assaults’ are much more subject to definition changes, change in reporting procedures, etc.

      1. True, numbers for assaults can fudged more easily, but I still think it’s wrong to use deaths as the only metric for this.

        1. Well, if the assault data is highly questionable, and the only solid data you have is deaths, then deaths it is.

          1. The increase in assaults could be from police claims of being assaulted increasing. The fact the numbers of injuries from these assaults didn’t also increase along with the increase in assaults calls the validity of the increase into question.

            How many of these reported assaults are of the “attacked officer’s fist with his face, repeatedly, then attacked door of police cruiser with face” variety?

    2. I’m not seeing any changes in the numbers that rise above statistical noise, whether one direction or the other. The whole thing is horseshit from a statistical perspective.

    3. They are talking about an increase in attacks on police post-Ferguson (since 2014).

      The people who use such a phrase have been talking about it since well before Ferguson. Balko wrote entire articles debunking the thing in 2011.

      1. Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible that what was debunkable in 2011 has happened since. And there does seem to be some sort of “Ferguson effect” in Ferguson (and elsewhere) when it comes to crime, at least in some cities.

        1. Though in this case, the connection to #BLM activism seems a little tenuous to me, since the one crime #BLM types do seem to encourage, property crime, went down after the shooting of Brown. The rise in violent crime seems more explainable as criminals taking advantage of more cautious policing than being encouraged by #BLM per se.

          1. I think “criminals taking advantage of more cautious policing” is what people mean by “the Ferguson effect.”

  9. The FBI notes that 50,212 police officers were assaulted on duty in 2015…

    Is that the number of actual assaults or the number of people charged with assault?
    It could be that the “increase” is due to more piling-on charges for assaulting cops’ fists with people’s faces.

    It would probably be more useful to see how many of these actually made it to court without charges being dropped.

    1. My brother was thrown across the street by a cop while already in cuffs followed by him jumping on top of him, and charged with resisting with violence. The cop claimed he ‘tensed’ up as he was entering the cop car.

      Afterwards, he told a female cop present that encounters like that are why he keeps alcohol in his car.

      1. He has to drink away the guilt he feels from needlessly harming another person.






        HA!

        1. I’m just amazed that’s on video (the alcohol comments), and it’s like…nothing happens. Well, I’m not really amazed, but you get the picture.

          The cop must have scuffed his shoes at some point. Only justification for resisting with violence I can see.

  10. But what about assaults against police?

    Since those charges are likely to be complete and utter bullshit, who cares?

    “He went for my gun.” = putting hands out for balance while being grabbed

    “He raised his hands in self defense as I was striking him with my baton.”

    You get the picture.

  11. Just because there’s a war doesn’t mean that it’s a successful one.

  12. “Assaults” as a raw number tells us nothing. Aside from what counts as an assault, what matters isn’t the raw number, its the rate per police encounters.

    If the police are stopping/messing with 10% more people, and the assault rate goes up 5%, then the rate is actually going down. And its the rate that matters.

  13. The number of assaults on police officers may well have increased because of the increasingly broad definition of “assault.” It’s whatever the cop says it is, and all they have to do to create the impression that they’re under attack is to increase arrests for things that no rational person would call an assault.

  14. A culture war on cops may be growing, as it damn well should, but actual violence and aggression against cops is nothing in comparison to the aggression committed by cops toward citizens, which cops are supposed to be, but are no longer and haven’t been for a while.

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