Why We Need To Stop Exaggerating The Threat To Cops (Radley Balko)
Wednesday April 10th, 2013
The recent killings of two prosecutors in Texas, a Colorado Department of Corrections official and a sheriff in West Virginia have law enforcement groups and the media once again buzzing about an alleged "war on cops" or, in some instances, a broader trend toward violent anti-government sentiment. Over at The Atlantic, Philip Bump does a good job debunking that idea. (He also quotes me.)
Unfortunately, thorough and skeptical analyses of police fatality statistics like Bump's are rare. The "war on cops" talk heats up every time that one or more high-profile police killings hit the news. But there's just no evidence that it's true.
I've pointed out a number of times that the job of police officer has been getting progressively safer for a generation. Last year was the safest year for cops since the early 1960s. And it isn't just because the police are carrying bigger guns or have better armor. Assaults on police officers have been dropping over the same period. Which means that not only are fewer cops getting killed on the job, people in general are less inclined to try to hurt them. Yes, working as a police officer is still more dangerous than, say, working as a journalist. (Or at least a journalist here in the U.S.) But a cop today is about as likely to be murdered on the job as someone who merely resides in about half of the country's 75 largest cities.