Conservative writer Michelle Malkin recently wrote an article claiming that a cop is killed in the line of duty every 58 hours. The article, published both on her site and in the National Review, she said that officers “risk their lives in ‘war zones’ every day across America.”
The implication is that every police officer (or, at least, the vast majority of them) are out stopping armed, dangerous criminals from hurting innocent people in a perpetual war zone. She cited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s statistic that 1,501 police officers died over the last 10 years, which does amount to about one officer every 58 hours or so. What she didn’t mention, though, is just how each of those officers died.
Reason.com delved into that, and found the following for the approximately 100 to 150 officers that were killed last year:
- Aircraft accident – 1
- Auto Crashes – 28
- Bomb-Related Incident – 1
- Drowned – 2
- Electrocuted – 1
- Fall – 6
- Job-Related Illness – 13
- Motorcycle Crashes – 4
- Poisoned – 1
- Shot – 31
- Stabbed – 2
- Struck by Vehicle – 11
If you include the two obvious ones — shot and stabbed — as being killed because they were fighting in one of those “war zones,” you get 33 deaths in the last year. Add in the bomb-related incident, you get 34. The rest of these are so subject to interpretation, however, that we can’t easily justify adding them in. We simply don’t know the circumstances surrounding the poisoning, drownings, electrocution or even the aircraft accident to be able to add them in. Auto crashes, motorcycle crashes and struck by vehicles — again, no way to know what actually happened. For instance, were the officers struck by vehicles run over intentionally by someone they were trying to stop, or did it happen while on foot and having the misfortune to be in the crosswalk when a drunk driver barreled through the intersection?
Author Ed Krayewski does not include “shot” when he discusses these statistics, because in his view, we don’t know that they were intentionally shot to death. But officers don’t often get shot to death accidentally. So, with those statistics that we can safely assume were truly life-threatening situations in the line of duty, what the numbers show is that a police officer was killed in one of those situations about once every nine to ten days. It’s still too high, but it’s nowhere near as often as Malkin claimed.
Krayewski also notes in his piece that accurate statistics on police use of force is very hard to come by. That muddies the picture of these statistics even further.
Police officers ought to be respected, but to get that respect, these incidents of brutality have to stop. What else has to stop is police departments automatically standing by their officer in the face of conflicting accounts of the incident, instead of placing the officer or officers involved on administrative leave, investigating, and then telling the truth, along with how they’ll deal with it if it comes out that their officer was in the wrong. They also need to stop being afraid of firing an officer if it turns out he injured or killed someone unnecessarily.
Malkin is apparently upset with Krayewski’s article. She doubled down on her remarks, saying that she had her agenda, and Krayewski had his. Her agenda is apparently to try sweeping our growing problem with militarized police forces, and police brutality, under the rug.