Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The threat to police is greatly exaggerated
The media has been exaggerating a small increase in the deaths of police officers while ignoring a much larger long term decline.
They've been repeating this distortion over and over again giving the public a false impression.
It is incredibly easy to spot; therefore it is easy to confirm as well; and it would have been incredibly easy for the media to do this before they distorted things out of proportion.
This high danger to police, or perceived high danger to police is a major part of the justification for overly aggressive tactics used by some police officers that are leading to the police shootings that have been making the news. What is often not mentioned is that the majority of police are not involved in any of these shootings at all; and some of them are sincerely interested in reform that will reduce shootings both by police and against police. Also many of the police that have made high profile news during these shootings have also been involved in previous violence. This includes the police officer who shot John Crawford III, who was also involved in the only other fatal police shooting in Beavercreek Ohio; the officer this previous week in Madison Wisconsin; and at least one recent case in Montana, which has a relatively low murder rate compared to the rest of the country, although the area of the shooting isn't so low.
As they say even one is too many; however the same should go for the killing of innocent people by police, or deaths as a result of other causes including environmental or accidental whether it is police or civilians. Unfortunately when the people dying have little or no political power the media and political establishment isn't nearly as concerned.
The New York Times did a better job explaining the proper perspective than most of the media but even they omitted an enormous amount of background that would have provided better perspective, including some basic numbers about how the deaths of police officers have been dramatically declining since the seventies, although 9/11 related illnesses are an exception in New York City. They reported the following:
The New York Times made a point to say that the number of ambushes are up from 2013 but the same as 2012 and significantly lower than the high in 1995. However the only thing that Craig Floyd acknowledged was the increase. This is far more typical of what the vast majority of the traditional media was repeating over and over again without even acknowledging that the low was only one year and the peak for ambushes was in 1995.
Furthermore, the New York Times also declined to report that the total number of officer deaths in 2013 was the lowest since 1944, or that except for 2013, 2012, and 2009 the total number of officer deaths in 2014 was lower than any year since 1959. (Source: Officer Deaths by Year Nationwide going back to 1791)
As shocking as the ambushes of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were, they were the only ambushes of New York Police Officers in at least ten years (2005-2014) that I checked. By comparison there were three pairs of New York Police Officers ambushed during the seventies. (These were Sergeant Frederick T. Reddy and Police Officer Andrew Glover; Officer Gregory Foster and Officer Rocco Laurie; Patrolmen Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones) Two of these pairs were police officers that were targeted because they were police. The other pair was an ambush that resulted when approaching a car that was double parked. I don't know how they classify ambushes, but I might have been inclined to classify this as someone who thought he was in the process of being investigated and responded accordingly, unlike the other ones, including the one with Eric M. Frein, where the shooter specifically intended to shoot police officers ahead of time; but even if you only count two ambushes in the seventies that would be twice the number in the past ten years in New York City.
According to "Officer Deaths by Year Nationwide going back to 1791" the highest number of officer deaths occurred during prohibition years in the twenties and early thirties and in the seventies, when they went over two hundred per year almost reaching three hundred at least once. I also took a quick glance at the deaths for Chicago, where the numbers dropped from 46 in the seventies to 13 in the past ten years and did a closer comparison for New York City, where the total number actually went up from 79 to 84; however this was due to a large rise in 9/11 related illnesses; if they weren't counted there would have been an enormous drop for New York as well. Without the 9/11 illnesses the total would have dropped from 79 to 17. Shootings including ambushes dropped from 53 to 8; stabbings or other deaths that could be described as murder without firearms, including one terrorist bomb that killed one officer dropped from 6 to 1.
That doesn't include 9/11, since I used 2005-14 for comparison or the illness related deaths which was 67. this should be considered an increase in the number of 9/11 related deaths and other illnesses would also be added including firemen and other people involved but that isn't the focus of this post.
For what it's worth that one terrorist bomb that killed one officer in the seventies also happened on 9/11 in 1976.
Make what you want out of that.
This exaggerated threat from people trying to kill police officers is being used to justify their extreme measures in many cases where they shoot many more civilians than police are being shot. As I indicated in A Brief History of Cops Convicted of Murder the FBIs own numbers indicate that police kill more than four times as many people as the number of police killed in 2013 and it would have still been three times more if you use the higher numbers from 2014; however if you compare them to the much higher figures compiled by "Killed By Police" which includes articles for each one, then it would be almost nine times as many.
As I stated previously, although police reform is an important part of correcting this problem it isn't as important as addressing the events that often precede confrontations with the police. If this is done then neither police nor alleged perpetrators will be shot nearly as often. I explained this in a series of posts starting with Ignored evidence linking corporal punishment, poverty and crime grows; and more recently Grass roots efforts reduce crime; Politicians steal credit. It is far more effective to reduce crime by addressing the root causes of violence before it escalates starting with child abuse and bullying that escalate to more violence later in life and escalating with hazing and bullying that occurs in both the military and police academies.
If the government and police departments did a better job addressing the legitimate concerns of the people then I suspect that far fewer people will feel as desperate as Ismaaiyl Brinsley or Jared Miller and consider going out in a blaze of glory or by committing suicide after taking other with them. It is hard to imagine many people that think their methods were justified but if more people think about the motives, and sort through the exaggerations then they might realize that there were some legitimate concerns that they had, which should be addressed. This is what many peaceful protesters and researchers are trying to get the government to do but they routinely cater to those with political power without adequately addressing legitimate concerns. This would of course be better for everyone; but with the exaggerations by the media it is much less likely. This includes police that aren't abusive; some of these people that have struck out at police did so arbitrarily without trying to sort out the abusive ones from the majority which are presumably not, although by simply following orders that are rigged in favor of the elite even they are enforcing a corrupt system.
Some people might think that since people like Ismaaiyl Brinsley or Jared Miller went to such bizarre extremes that we shouldn't worry about their concerns at all. Perhaps they got what they deserved in the end.
In that case then we should reform things because of the action of those that are researching and protesting in the proper way. I'm not sure I would completely agree with assumption that Brinsley and Miller got what they deserved since there is a real possibility that if the government had done a better job listening to peaceful protesters and researchers decades ago then they almost certainly would have implemented reforms that would have made these problems less likely.
Also even though I consider this review far more effective than the hype that the traditional media repeats over and over again a more thorough review could be even more helpful, although it would take more time. However even a simple review cleanly raises major doubts about the exaggerations by the traditional media and political establishment. Furthermore, none of the high profile people that the media presents to the public as either pundits or potential candidates for office seem to recognize any problem with the hype at all. They all go along with the same limited point of view and those that don't can't get any coverage from the traditional media; they're relegated to alternative outlets that the mainstream press attempts to portray as fringe.
An article by Seth Stoughton, which was cited by David Couper in Is Training the Problem? 12/22/2014 might raise doubts about whether or not recruits are trained to be overly paranoid in the academy. According to the article rookies are taught "An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift;" which is perfectly reasonable. However if the threats or potential threats are exaggerated too much then many of them could be trained to be overly paranoid, and this could actually lead to more threats to the police as well as the public, not less. This view is apparently shared by at least two former police officers that contributed to that post. There are almost certainly many others that agree; and as I said in the previous post, A Brief History of Cops Convicted of Murder many of the abandoned cities that need the best police officers often get the worst since the best ones can get jobs elsewhere and in tougher neighborhoods many police seem to believe they have to rely on escalating violence or the threat of escalating violence to solve problems.
Honoring All Fallen Members of the New York City Police Department going back to 1806
The following is some of the back up data for comparisons with NYPD shootings in the seventies verses those in the last ten years:
There will be at least one more follow up post on this subject coming soon.