Saturday, July 9, 2016

Clarifying Data Reports: Police Deaths Have Fallen As Citizen Gun Ownership Increased

In 2012, welder Vic Stacy used his weapon to save the life of police Sgt Steven Means, by shooting a murderer who had Means pinned down in his sights.  Governor Perry gave him an AR-15 as a token of appreciation.

Guns in the hands - or openly on the backs - of private citizens are not a danger to the police, but an asset.  The same people who are dangerous to cops are also dangerous to other citizens.  The Dallas Shootings were horrific, as terrible as Orlando, San Bernadino, the Luby's Cafeteria Massacre, and the Ft Hood Terror Attack.

All of these attacks showed the terrible carnage that can occur when Americans of all walks of life are not armed to defend themselves.  It is dangerous to be an American these days - but it is more dangerous not to be. And it is especially dangerous for unarmed or disarmed people.

The truth is that increasing prevalence of armed citizens - even minors - are an important arm of law enforcement in the United States, preventing tens of thousands of crimes every year, and protecting others from being victimized by criminals.  And in the mass shootings that have become more frequent, FBI data shows that the random armed citizen may be the most effective response to prevent deaths and stop the killer.

We need our police to perform their work of keeping the peace. And we respect and admire LEOs for their dedication. But it is essential that our police not feel the need to make us less safe in a misguided urge for their own safety, or in misunderstanding the risks they face or where those risks come from.

 In fact, firearms deaths of police have fallen every decade for the past forty years, right along with the drop in all gun deaths that sharply mirrors the climb in citizen gun ownership.

It is a lot less dangerous to be a police officer now than it was in 1973, when firearms-related fatalities peaked - 156 officers were killed that year.  Only 42 officers were killed by gun in 2015 - and three of those were accidents.   According to NLEOMF:
 " Firearms-related fatalities peaked in 1973, when 156 officers were shot and killed. Since then, the average number of officers killed has decreased from 127 per year in the 1970s to 57 per year in the 2000s.
"The 42 firearms-related fatalities in 2015 are 26 percent lower than the average of 57 per year for the decade spanning 2000-2009."
Today. it is twice as dangerous to be a roofer or to collect garbage for a living as it is to be a police officer.

When reading reports of  Law Enforcement deaths, such as this one from USA Today, "Officer Deaths In Dallas Add To A Growing Tally",  keep in mind that this does not mean they were all violent deaths.  Of the  53 police officer deaths so far in 2016 reported, 19 were from accident, illness, or natural causes such as heart attacks. One was an accidental shooting.  One was a plane crash.

"In The Line Of Duty", for purposes of factual reporting on memorial websites such as the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, does not even mean the death happened on duty. It means simply that the person who died was employed as a law enforcement officer.

124 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2015. 73 of those were not caused by crime, but were accident or illness. This is out of 929,000 full or part-time law enforcement officers in the US.

Here are the actual numbers from the 2015 Fatality Report, as reported by the NLEOMF:
"Traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of officer deaths in 2015, killing 52.  ...
"Firearms-related incidents decreased in 2015. These fatalities accounted for 42 deaths, dropping 14 percent from 2014 when 49 officers were shot and killed. [
NOTE: three of these 2015 deaths were listed as "inadvertently shot and killed", which I assume means they were accidents.]
"Thirty officers died from other causes in 2015...[Of these thirty,] "Twenty-four officers died from job-related illnesses this year, mostly heart attacks—compared to 18 in 2014. Also included among those 24 are four officers who died of illnesses they contracted as a result of their rescue and recovery work following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "
"Fifty-two officers were killed in felonious incidents, a 16 percent decrease from 61 in 2014, and 73 officers died as a result of non-felonious incidents, increasing 20 percent over 58 in 2014."
"Felonious and Non-Felonious Fatalities :
Fifty-two officers were killed feloniously in 2015, a 15 percent decrease from 2014 when 61 officers died as a result of a criminal act. Of the 52 officers feloniously killed this year, 39 were shot and killed; 11 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents and two officers were killed in incidents unrelated to traffic or firearms. Of the 11 officers feloniously killed in traffic-related incidents, seven were struck, and four were killed in automobile crashes. One officer died as a result of a physical altercation with a suspect,  and one officer was beaten to death.
"Seventy-two officers died in non-felonious incidents in 2015, a 24 percent increase from 58 in 2014. Automobile crashes were the leading cause of non-felonious deaths in 2015 with  31 fatalities, followed by job-related illnesses, which accounted for 23 officer deaths. Six officers died in motorcycle crashes and four officers were struck and killed by a vehicle. Three officers were inadvertently shot and killed, two fell to their death, one was electrocuted, one was killed in an aircraft crash, and one drowned.

We don't know for certain how many citizens die in the presence or custody of law enforcement each year.  The FBI reported on "Justifiable Homicides" by both police and citizens through 2008, but these numbers do not include all shootings by police, and only include  numbers reported to them voluntarily. Despite laws passed by Congress, and Executive Orders from the President, the FBI does not collect or report reliable data.   The Guardian newspaper has begun tracking shootings by US law enforcement. This is reported in Wikipedia as 1140 persons killed by police in 2015, of which 224 of those shot were unarmed. 

It takes a lot to be a good police officer. Willing assumption of risk is only part of it. It requires self control, maturity, confidence in self and team, and most of all, dedication to the equal application of the rule of law,and to the ideals of the job.

What it does not require is "closed ranks"or an exaggerated sense of separation from the public to which all members of law enforcement belong.  We're all in this together.

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