The Numbers Show There Is No 'War on Police'

Police deaths steady in recent years, much lower than decades ago
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2015 9:27 AM CDT
The Numbers Show There Is No 'War on Police'
In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, a protester yells at police outside the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

A recent Rasmussen poll found 58% of respondents believe a "war on police" exists. The sentiment is being echoed publicly: After Shannon J. Miles was arrested for killing Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth at a gas station in Houston, a local DA remarked that "there are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement." NPR reports some people are using this stat as evidence of that war: In 2013, 27 US officers were "feloniously killed"; a year later, the number was 51. But Seth Stoughton, a former cop and assistant law professor, says this so-called war is, in fact, imaginary. "It's misleading to compare one year to another year," says Stoughton. "2013 was the safest year for police officers, ever," as in, "the safest year in recorded history."

The number of police deaths last year was on par with 2012 and significantly lower than in 2011. We're now on track to have 35 felonious police deaths this year, which would be the second-lowest number in decades after 2013, writes Radley Balko at the Washington Post. The number of officers murdered has dropped by 50% compared to the 1970s, Stoughton says, and while things like improved protective gear play a role in that, assaults on officers are also down. More ambush killings, like the one in Houston, may be occurring, but "the increase from five to eight, or five to 10" over 67 million police-citizen interactions every year, "statistically, it doesn't look significant," Stoughton says. (More police stories.)

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