Tuesday night Street Thug got a big roar out of the Crowd in Jacksonville when he said that he would make America “safe” for the cops. Now I was always under the impression that the cops were supposed to make America safe, but obviously the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge have changed all that. Or at least changed it in the minds of the crowd that showed up to chant about building a wall in front of their beloved Mister Trump.
How bad is the problem of cops getting killed on the job? According to the FBI, 51 police were feloniously killed in 2014, of whom 46 lost their lives to assaults involving guns. After Dallas and Baton Rouge, the number of cops shot to death this year jumped to 37; last year at this point only 20 officers had lost their lives to gunfire. But 2015 was an exceptionally safe year; in fact in 2011 there were 73 fatal law enforcement gun deaths, in 2010 it was 60 police gun deaths. Notwithstanding recent events, the number of cops getting shot has been drifting downward over the last ten years.
I wish I could say the same thing about civilians who are shot by cops. This number appears to be going up. According to the CDC, which tracks gun deaths attributed to the actions of law enforcement as ‘legal intervention,’ the average yearly toll between 2005 and 2009 was 340, from 2010 through 2014 the yearly average was 440 – a yearly increase of 30%! The CDC data also shows that over the last ten years, African-Americans were 26% of the toll of legal interventions, which happens to be twice the percentage of African-Americans in the population as a whole.
So what we have when we look at the trends of gun violence involving police is that the number of cops getting shot on the job, this year’s tragic events notwithstanding, has been going down, the number of civilians shot by cops has been going up. Meanwhile, police deaths from accidents, which along with shootings comprises more than 95% of all on-the-job police mortality, have also been declining, the result of better training. So what’s up with guns?
Not only can’t I answer that question, but I’m not sure that the numbers produced by the FBI or the CDC on police use of lethal force bear any resemblance to reality at all. And if they don’t, then how can we even begin to talk about what needs to be done, or should be done, to bring this situation under control. Street Thug can scream out from today to next year that under his rule cops will be protected and safe. But you can take that statement about as seriously as you can take anything else he says, except when he admits that he was always looking for an ‘easy’ way to be awarded a Purple Heart.
According to our friends at the Gun Violence Archive, 168 people were shot and killed by police between June 25 and August 3 of this year. That’s more than 4 a day. At that rate, the yearly total of cop shootings would come to more than 1,460. Is that possible? Can the number of people killed by cops amount to three times the number given by the CDC? Not only is it possible – it’s probable because The Washington Post also tracks police shootings through media reports and says that the 2016 number is up to 564. Another online tracker says the number stands at 690 for this year.
I’ll be the first person to say that police deserve all our support. But supporting the men and women in blue is one thing, dealing properly with the issue of aggravated assaults by cops is something else. And if we don’t even know the scope of the problem, how are we going to deal with it at all?