The Declaration of War on Police

Are the numbers of officers killed by someone engaged in a criminal action increasing?  They are not.

Would you believe that in the period between 1970 and 1980 there were only 5 fewer felonious officer fatalities (1228) than in the 22 year period between 1993 and 2013 (1233)?  Add the 23 officers feloniously killed in 2015 and we have 1256 in almost 23 years.

I’m not trying to imply a greater good thesis or anything of that nature. My opinion is that a single death resulting from a felonious act is a death that we should do everything within our power to prevent.

I’m not wanting to make a political ideology statement but,

This media hype and assertions that Barack Obama has declared a war on cops and that the tragedies happening today are unprecedented are not accurate and likely distract from the real issues.

It’s sad to say but there are a number of sick people in this country. Sick can refer to types of mental illness which are treatable, mental conditions which are not responsive to treatments from the various disciplines, and those who are consumed by hate or want to create hurt and grief for others.

Law enforcement is one of those professions where I have no firsthand experience. Still I have taught quite a number of students who were members of the local police force, some who were sheriff deputies, and even a few who worked for the state police. A few of my childhood classmates from grade school, junior high, and high school have worked in law enforcement at some stage in their lives and at least a couple established careers in the occupation.

It’s a tough job; one that I would not enjoy. Like any profession there are excellent officers and unfortunately at least a few really bad ones with the vast majority I would say being capable to good at their work. Whether that person performs their job well or not, the responsibility and the aspect of split second decisions being the difference between life and death exist.

I’m not even addressing the public perception of officers either individually or as a group here either.  I’ll note my personal experience in a comment.  Even though I do not feel it is relevant for my purpose, some may question whether or not my personal experiences influence my opinion.

One sad fact is people are killing police officers.

Consult practically any news outlet, and you’ll find stories about recent cop killings.  Back home in Louisiana on 24 August, Senior State Trooper Steven Vincent was shot and killed after stopping to assist a driver whose vehicle was in a ditch. Two days later Sunset Police Officer Henry Nelson was shot and killed while responding to a service call. Next door in Houston, two days after Officer Nelson was shot, Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth was shot and killed while pumping gasoline into his vehicle.  {Officer Down Memorial Page}

While I never crossed paths with any of these men, all the deaths are sad and tragic. Loved ones mourn; children cry; and I cannot even pretend to have any answers to explain why.

Sadly these events are not new in US History.

That fact is apparently unknown to many sources of media. That’s not all that surprising considering how partisan much of our media has become.

What shocked me, however, is that even though I knew that these tragedies were not new I did not realize that the numbers of law enforcement officers killed by felonious acts have been fewer during the administration of Barack Obama than during the terms of the most recent presidents.

Why this fact is true, my field of history does not provide me with any answers.  Friends, readers, and students know that on so many issues I assert neither credit nor blame to the individual in the White House because the President is merely a cog of a single sprocket within a complex chain.  Later I relate statistics in the format of administrations merely for organizational purposes and am not implying either credit or blame to the President at the time.

Scapegoating isn’t going to help, distracts, and in this case likely endangers more lives as people are not just pointing fingers, but weapons.

My intent is not to conduct either a historical or statistical analysis with these numbers.

I merely want people to review the actual numbers for themselves before jumping on any of the popular bandwagons.

This table that I quickly compiled begins with 1989 and the administration of George H.W. Bush and continues with the 2 terms of Bill Clinton, the 2 terms of George W. Bush, and the terms of Barack Obama through 31 August 2015.

Year Total Officer Fatalities  Officer Fatalities Resulting from Felonious Acts
1989 196 66
1990 159 66
1991 148 71
1992 161 64
1993 158 70
1994 179 80
1995 183 74
1996 140 61
1997 172 71
1998 171 61
1999 144 42
2000 162 51
2001 241 142  (approximately 72 not related to 9/11)
2002 159 56
2003 150 52
2004 165 57
2005 163 55
2006 156 48
2007 192 57
2008 148 41
2009 125 48
2010 161 56
2011 171 72
2012 126 48
2013 107 27
2014 117 51



23  (As of 30 August 2015)

Felonious:  defined here as “Involving, being or having the nature of a crime.”

Data Source:  FBI Uniform Crime Reports

How to locate your own data

The FBI releases Uniform Crime Reports. While I have not located a portal which links to individual years, many are accessible by merely changing the year in two locations with the URL as these examples for 2013 and 2012 indicate.

Other publications such as this one released by the FBI contain more detailed information for a number of years.

For example, the one above has Table 1 on page 9 of the report which begins a breakdown of the 636 officers feloniously killed between the years 1993 and 2002.

  • [note that a significant discrepancy exists for the year 2001 because of the number of officers who died in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001]

There have been some research studies such as this one to the National Institute of Justice.

A gentleman named Dan Wang provides some statistical analysis and an abundance of links and citations at the link below.

Since many will not want to read or work with the numbers, he makes 3 statistical points in his narrative.

  • “More officers were feloniously killed in the 11 years between 1970 and 1980 (1228 deaths) than in the 21 years between 1993 and 2013 (1182 deaths).”
  • “The rate of felonious killings per 100,000 officers has declined from about 18 in 1989 to about 5 in 2013. It was over 3 times safer to be a police officer in 2013 than 26 years ago.”
  • “In the five years between 1971 and 1975, an average of 125 officers were feloniously killed per year. Most recently, between 2006 and 2010, the equivalent number is 50. That’s more remarkable given that the number of officers employed has increased considerably since the ‘70s.”

The Police Chief published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police ran a story at the link below:

Please consider

Police lives do matter. Teachers’ lives do matter. Truck drivers’ lives do matter. Retail clerks’ lives do matter. The fact that their lives matter doesn’t suggest that the lives of individuals in any profession does not matter.  It should only make one reflect. The same is true with Black Lives Matters. It doesn’t make my life as a white Louisiana boy matter any less. White lives matter. Urban lives matter. Rural lives matter. Just my opinion but if any of these expressions bothers or offends then my suggestion is to look yourself in the mirror and say that you matter because I reckon you feel insecure or lack the confidence that you matter if your “group” is not singled out for this generic pat on the back.

Like a number of things it would be nice if we could blame a single person, be it Barack Obama or anyone else for that matter, or a single factor, but unfortunately we cannot. Trying to do so results in nothing positive and only distracts from things which could be done.


2 thoughts on “The Declaration of War on Police

  1. I did grow up in an environment where my elders taught me to respect the police. Police were always the good guys who you could go to for help. It was a rural environment and everybody knows the Chief of Police who has held the position for about 40 years now. Back in my public school days, the Parish Sheriff knew me by name and I knew the majority of deputies. With my Dad at the K&B in Hammond, I knew quite a few Tangipahoa Parish deputies as well.

    Now I’ve never been in any trouble with the law. The only ticket I ever received was parking without a sticker from a campus officer where I was interviewing for a job. For that I simply walked to the campus station; showed the desk clerk my out of state license and had her call the Dean’s office to confirm that I was in fact a visitor who parked in a faculty lot to have the ticket cancelled. As they say no harm and no foul.

    While my experiences have been positive, I am aware of others who have had bad involvements. Sometimes it’s their fault; some were likely the officers; most were a combination; and some just happened for who knows why. I believe that we are all treated differently, but each of us will also treat the officers differently. I’ve written a number of pieces on the subject, and while patterns exist so do variables.

    I have a high respect for the profession. I know and respect a number of men and women in the profession. As with any profession I think that there are some bad officers or people who should not be the profession. My experience and from what I’ve heard from people who I know in law enforcement is that they are among the people who really want the bad out because those individuals make their jobs tougher. Given the responsibility and danger associated with the job, they really do not need the additional pressure. I do, however, support the wearing of body cameras because I believe that their usage will assist in answering some questions about what the officer did and what the citizen did. I’ve only had that conversation with a limited number of people currently in the business and they seem to believe that once they wear a camera it will feel just like a part of their uniform that they will not notice or think about unless something extraordinary happens.

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