We’ve been treated to some breathless stories about how much more dangerous it is this year than last for police officers. Like many stories of this type, it ignores the bigger picture in order to hype the smaller one. As anything else, data on officers killed needs to be viewed in context. I have accessed the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted data for since 1996. For each year, I have recorded the number of officers killed feloniously and accidentally. I have also entered the data for officers assaulted.
As you can see, while higher than 2009, and much higher than 2008, the number of officers murdered in 2010 was not out of line with historical data. The number of officers murdered was only slightly higher than the average number killed in the last 15 years. The same goes for officers killed accidentally.
Most people are visual, so it’s easier to see and understand the data if it is in graph form. Here’s the number of officers killed, both feloniously and by accident.
As you can see, there seems to be no pattern to the data. This is pretty normal with data of this type. Police officer murders are generally random events. They happen at relatively low levels compared to the total number of police officers. This isn’t much comfort to those who lost their lives, but it’s a fact. When you have relatively few of something, the changes from year to year represent statistical noise rather than any real trend.
Here’s the data on officers assaulted.
Not much to see here either. It’s nice to see that overall assaults on police officers seems to be falling to the lowest level since 1997, but without several more years it would be hard to call it a trend.
In the end, we can only pay attention to who is killing officers. The latest FBI report said
Suspects: Law enforcement agencies identified 69 alleged assailants in connection with the 56 felonious line-of-duty deaths. Fifty-seven of the assailants had prior criminal arrests, and 19 of the offenders were under judicial supervision at the time of the felonious incidents.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone who reads this blog. Criminal activity is generally confined to a small subset of the total population. In general terms, past performance is a good indicator of future actions. Leopards don’t change their spots. If you’ve spent 20, 30, 40 years being a good upstanding citizen then the likelihood you will kill anyone, much less a cop, is really small. Don’t let the statistics showing an increase in police murders this year over last year, coupled with the info that a large percentage of police were killed with firearms, be used to tar honest gun owners. It’s also a good idea to remind your local cops that their enemies are the criminals, not the honest citizens that the criminals prey upon.
Honest gun owners are the natural allies of police. Don’t let the gun owners turn the cops against us.
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