There Still Wasn't a War on Cops in 2017

Line of duty deaths this year approached a 50-year low



Claims by police apologists that a "war on cops" ensued from a reform movement that emerged after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, has no statistical support.

Preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) finds that 128 police officers died in the line of duty in 2017—44 of them were fatally shot. Last year 64 officers were fatally shot. And since 2011, the numbers have largely gone down.

In the meantime, police have fatally shot 971 people so far this year—the youngest of them just six years old. Last year, 963 people were fatally shot by cops.

Because the numbers include a wide variety of deaths, they are easy to misrepresent. The broad number, which includes traffic and other accidents as well as illnesses (mostly heart disease), is used to support claims that "a cop is killed every so many hours." In 2014, Michelle Malkin claimed a cop was killed every 58 hours, using line-of-duty death statistics that included heart attacks, traffic accidents, and even accidental falls.

The claims that a public backlash demanding police accountability has led to violence against cops are divorced from reality. There were slightly more police deaths in 2011, long before police reform gained any substantive national attention, than in 2016. And 2016 didn't compare to the annus horribilis that was 2007, when 204 cops died in the line of duty, 67 of them shot.


The 10-year high for line of duty deaths was 180 dead cops in 2011, of which 68 were shot, according to the Officers Down Memorial Page, which offers more detailed historical data than NLEOMF.

And none of those numbers compares to those posted in the 1970s and 1980s—145 cops were shot and killed in 1975 alone.

The NLEOMF is not yet offering a detailed breakdown of the deaths. Aside from the 44 cops who were shot, 47 died in traffic-related incidents and 37 of "other causes." For comparison, the leading "other cause" in 2016 was "job-related illness," which killed 15 police officers, according to NLEOMF.

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  1. The guy re-roofing your house is about 3x more likely to die on the job.

    1. Counting heart attacks as “line of duty” deaths is stoopid.

      Here are some stats.


      1. Hell, here’s a bee sting being listed as a “line of duty” death:


        And the majority of deaths listed in a motor vehicle are no doubt due to the cop not knowing how to drive. That’s one of the two biggest myths regarding American cops: They know all about firearms, and they know how to drive cars real fast.

        No other group requires so much smoke blown up their ass as American cops.

    2. “The guy re-roofing your house is about 3x more likely to die on the job.”

      Yeah, but only if he falls off the roof into my shark-infested moat, and he signs a waiver.

      1. Do the sharks have laser beams?

        1. Do you think I’m *made* of money?

          1. So just get ill-tempered sea bass.

    3. And the roofer does 100x more honorable work.

    4. The guy re-roofing your house is about 3x more likely to die on the job.

      Aim for the backyard trampoline!

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    7. Truck drivers are 10x more likely to die “in the line of duty” than a Stormtrooper.
      They also have to make instant, life-or-death decisions.

      They don’t however, cover for the relative safety of their job by intentionally killing innocent people.

    8. Same with your garbage collector. I believe the #1 killer of cops is traffic accidents.

      1. I guess the war on cops was declared by cars, trucks and buses. I’ll bet it’s those foreign immigrant automobiles that kill the most cops. Trump needs to build a tariff wall to keep out killer alien automobiles.

  2. “The claims that a public backlash demanding police accountability has lead to violence against cops are divorced from reality.”

    Certainly, but what about the claim that crime against *non*-cops has gone up as cops grow more timid from the “Ferguson Effect?”

    I mention this, not because I know the answer, but because I don’t remember Reason doing a rebuttal, and they’re my main source of info on this topic.

    1. Certainly, but what about the claim that crime against *non*-cops has gone up as cops grow more timid from the “Ferguson Effect?”

      According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, it’s a total crapshoot.
      2012 saw an increase, then a drops for 2013 & 2014, then increases for 2015,2016. 6 years does not a good trend make.


      1. Hmmm…interesting, thank you.

    2. Certainly, but what about the claim that crime against *non*-cops has gone up as cops grow more timid from the “Ferguson Effect?”

      The rebuttal to this is simple: “Philip Brailsford.”

      Cowardly, yes. Timid, no.

  3. So collapsing into your donut during work hours counts as being in the line of duty?

  4. Another killing of an unarmed suspect in Phila. by a cop. Police spokesman says “Suspect made a furtive movement towards his waist band.” No weapon was found. So, those of you who are pistol-trained, does someone “reaching for a gun” have time to draw, aim and fire before a cop, already pointing a gun at him, can respond by firing first as soon as the weapon is seen? And, if the response is “probably in the majority of cases,” then isn’t the cop obliged to wait until he actually sees a weapon before blasting away? Doesn’t “protect and serve,” mean the cop should show some restraint until the “suspect” presents a weapon and isn’t merely reaching for his I.D.?

    1. @creech, you’ve watched too many Hollywood movies. If someone goes for a gun you stop the threat before it has the chance of harming anyone. The idea that we can calculate probability is foolish nonsense.

      BTW, who was shot and killed that you’re referring to? The guy who tried to run people over — aka kill them — with his car? An important part of the context is that he already tried to kill people and he fled, crashing his car before abandoning it to run on foot.

      https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com /news/local/ Plainclothes-Police-Officer-Shoots- Unarmed-Man-to-Death-Philadelphia- 466983653.html

      A man who allegedly hit plainclothes officers with his car while trying to flee a traffic stop Wednesday night in Northwest Philadelphia was shot and killed by one of the officers, officials said

      1. Yes, too many movies and tv shows that show remarkable restraint by police officers (e.g. the Reagans on BlueBloods). I am asking if that is too much for the public to expect from trained officers or do they need to start blasting away every time a suspect makes a furtive move? I don’t think I’d be given the same leeway if I shot someone who was unarmed.

      2. “…before abandoning it to run on foot.”

        How big were the dead man’s feet that he was an immediate threat to anyone. Oh, (wink wink) the cops were just being judge and executioner, you know, because “The guy who tried to run people over.” Got it.

        How exactly does one make a furtive (adj. Expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty.) movement for a non-existent gun? Shoot 1st ask questions but don’t expect answers for at least 48 hours because, you know, cop union. And this from the “Well, if you got nothing to hide people.

  5. What makes it a ‘war on cops’?

    Is it the number of cops shot in the line of duty?


    It’s the number of cops shot simply because they’re cops.

    It’s cops being attacked because other cops did something wrong–whether or not they support them.

    Those are the numbers that are important insofar as a ‘war on cops’ is concerned.

    Since they are a subset of the numbers we have, I suspect that even when looking for the correct stats, we won’t find much of a ‘war’.

    1. Perhaps a squirmish.

      1. You really squidded out with this one.

  6. The War On Cops is still building. Watch it explode one day.

    1. Just imagine if the War on Cops came with a quota.

  7. It takes two sides to make a war – how long have the cops been fighting a one-sided assault? And now they want to whine because the sheep are fighting back.

    1. Whine? Oh, I get it. When they show up and spray bullets in all directions so that everyone is dead, hence, no longer a threat, some of the bullets whine. Howcum no anti-gun groups ever mention police hardware?

  8. The claims that a public backlash demanding police accountability has lead to violence against cops are divorced from reality.
    ” ~EdKrayewski

    Mr. Krayewski, you know that violence occurs then there is not death. If you want to state that on-duty deaths are going down, you would be correct. You share no evidence that violence is decreasing.

    Sure, those making the claims of increases should share with the public data that builds their case. Nevertheless, you need to show us that violence is going down too. How many people were charged with assaulting an officer? How many acts of violence against peace officers were tracked? Or do we not know that data?

    Either way, this makes for the same ol’ intellectually numbing pissing match of trotting out some single state and then making a grand pronouncement despite a clear lack of evidence back that grand pronouncement.

    On the bright side, at least this isn’t WaPo or NYT where they’ll run a front page store based on nothing more than hearsay.

    1. “Nevertheless, you need to show us that violence is going down too.”

      Well, to start, a reasonable person would assume that overall violence has decreased along with homicides (Since that is usually the case in crime stats). The person asserting that violence is trending up in spite of homicide going down has the burden of proof.

      “How many people were charged with assaulting an officer? “

      As many as the cops want.

      1. Well, to start, a reasonable person would assume that overall violence has decreased along with homicides (Since that is usually the case in crime stats). The person asserting that violence is trending up in spite of homicide going down has the burden of proof.

        Wait a minute, the burden of proof shifts because you made an unproven assumption?

        1. Key part of my statement:

          “Since that is usually the case in crime stats”

          There is a correlation between the homicide rate (cop victim or non-cop victim) and the overall violent crime rate. That is not an “unproven assumption”, that is the multi-decade historical record. I assumed most commenters knew that.

          So no, I’m not shifting the burden of proof. I made a ‘safe’ assumption based on historical trends. The person claiming a divergence from those trends has a bigger burden of proof.

      2. So if, say, beatings with lead pipes went up, someone disputing the claim that all violence went up would suddenly have the burden of proof?

    2. How many people were charged with assaulting an officer?

      Assaulting an officer could be anything from picking my nose in front of him to actually punching him. If its their word against mine and few cops have video cams, even fewer of whom use them, who is the judge or jury going to believe?

  9. Data could be compared to other counties adjusting for reporting differences and population.

  10. I’ve heard that the most deadly occupation, statistically, is POTUS.
    We’ve had less than fifty, and four have been killed in office, so that’s an approximate rate of 25%.
    *citation needed*

    1. Don’t forget “drummer for Spinal Tap.”

      Also “19th century Archbishop of Paris” – two killed in revolutions, one stabbed to death by mad priest.

    2. 4 / 50 = ?

  11. Oh, and…….FTC!

  12. Wars today are psychological.

    Louis Farahkan constantly calls for the deaths of white people but in particular cops. Crowds of thousands applaud. During marches people have been chanting “what do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now” lost count of the videos I’ve watched of cop footage showing people being combative, not obeying orders, always to their own detriment but it doesn’t stop them.

    maybe law enforcement are feeling the squeeze of resistance and they don’t like it. This is the ‘war’ and they’re trying to prove it unsuccessfully using death statistics.

    Not that I’m down with calling for the deaths of cops, I am not, I’m certainly not down with the profoundly racist Farrakhan, but it is happening.

  13. Thanks for letting me know cops are the bad guys and bad guys aren’t the bad guys.

    I used to love Reason but this is getting ridiculous.

    1. I suppose you think people who criticize Antifa are fascist sympathizers, too.

  14. “bad guys aren’t the bad guys”

    No one said or implied that.

  15. First starting your opinion piece with the phrase “police apologist” (not advocates or supporters which would be neutral) immediately sets your piece up as biased before I have even finished reading the first sentence. I expect more from Reason than that. Second the article that you cite directly contradicts some of your assertions with actual data and experts, including your basic assumption that there is NO data to support a war in cops. There is data to support it, that data is just small in the grand scheme of things. And the entire article is about how it is the perception itself that is the issue but you failed to address that entirely. You then go on to write about how the data fails to break down the type of death in the line of duty making it invalid and then promptly quote the number of homicides of civilians in the line of duty as support without so much as a mention that those figures are also subject, and perhaps even more so, to mischaracterization due to the types of deaths contained within the data.

    So all in all this opinion piece is not worthy of Reason’s data driven approach. You could have used it as an opportunity to point out that both sides are being driven by perceptions not supported by hard data and how perceptions lead us to do dumb things. But you didnt. And I have been seeing more and more of these sorts of unsupported analysis pieces lately which bothers me because Reason was one of the last places willing to go where the data leads.

    1. If you expect unbiased articles about the police, in REASON, then you must no be very well acquainted with the site.
      Virtually every article and almost all of the comments displays a disrespect for the police, mostly because it is the police who enforce the laws that they don’t like, especially smoking weed.
      They are intellectually immature in that they don’t accept that the laws, that the police are charged with enforcing, are not enacted by the enforcers, or that ordinary people, who choose that form of service to the community, become fearful of being killed, or badly injured. Not through accident, as all those other “more dangerous” jobs some quote, but through intentional acts by criminals, who are willing to do anything to keep from being held responsible for their actions. It is the nature of “libertarianism”.
      There is, and has always been a “war on cops”; by those who want to break the law and wish not have to answer for their refusal to accept civilization’s standards. Or by self-styled libertarians, who are just so smug in their beliefs in the ability to ignore human nature. In that, they are every bit as unrealistic as the communists.

      1. The “smug” one is the statist cunt lint that smugly declares police have legitimate authority to trespass (eg “no-knock raid”), rob (eg “confiscate”) and rape (eg “cavity search”) people under color of law because “civilization’s standards” (eg the presumptuous ignorance of a bunch of brainless, easily spooked soccer mom cattle) said to do so, immaturely panic-shoot like a little, pathetic BITCH any time a citizen fails to immediately comply or a puppy gets within 20 feet of them and then whine that they were “in fear for their life”, and then have the UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLY UNDESERVED GALL to demand that these *disrespectful*, arrogant, lazy, wimpy public SERVANTS who act like masters somehow deserve “respect”. You want “respect”? Throw your badge and uniform in a gasoline fire. Then I’ll respect you.

        And the “intellectually immature” one is the dumbass that thinks the cops who *voluntarily signed up* for their jobs had no choice about the laws they enforce (NEWSFLASH: they do have a choice, it’s called “not signing up to be a fucking cop”), and that the “intentional” nature of criminal action somehow makes said action “moar dangerous-er”.

        There is nothing “unrealistic” about demanding to not be treated like peasants for the landed-gentry-in-blue to have their way with. *Apologists* for narco-feudalism, law-and-order totalitarianism and cop-licking, like you, are the communists here.

      2. When criminals with badges start facing consequences for their illegal actions, when “good cops” do something about bad cops, when those who enforce the law are held to some set of standards, then perhaps libertarians may start to respect the police.

    2. As Reason’s writers are often at pains to explain, this is an overtly and deliberately biased, opinion advocacy website.

  16. I keep thinking about all those articles Reason published about there being no opioid problem only to have them publishing things now ABOUT the opioid problem and it makes me wonder about the ‘no war on cops’ stance

    1. The “opiod problem” has been put squarely on chronic pain patients and their doctors, when the real problem is the heroin and Fentanyl killing most of the addicts. In addition, taking pain pills, daily, does not make one an addict, if it improves the patient’s quality of life! The addiction definition includes doing oneself harm, which chronic pain patients are not doing! The result of this misdirected war on patients seems to be counter to a compassionate society. The addiction rate has been reported as high as 5% (addictionologists) and as low as .0008% in one statistical study. Where as addiction rates remain around 1.5% for the last century, pain patients’ addiction rate is .05%, or less.(scientific study not done by addictionologists.) Pain patients don’t get a buzz. When one is in severe pain, it is the relief from pain that they feel. Ignorance seems to be present in all of the media But, too many are willing to repeat the bad information that they are working with! But, the doctors that run addiction treatment centers are set up with reimbursements from the government for treating anyone they want to claim is addicted, even in the absence of proof. In the end it comes down to the same old adage…follow the money!

  17. Are shooting deaths really a meaningful measure of social attitudes toward police? If so, then not only is there not a war on police, but the decline in shooting deaths is an indication of an increasingly positive attitude toward police–an assertion I suspect no reasonable person would accept. So, in what way are police shooting statistics a relevant indicator of anything?

  18. Claims has… or claims have?

  19. There may not be a war on cops. There is a cop war on unarmed citizens and dogs though.

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