By the Numbers: How Dangerous Is It to Be a Cop?Posted: August 7, 2016
Despite what supporters of police militarization claim, being a cop doesn’t require increasingly deadly kit. It’s not even particularly dangerous.
Daniel Bier writes: Defenders of police militarization, such as that on display in Ferguson, Missouri, often claim that it’s necessary to provide military gear to cops, given how dangerous law enforcement has become.
Indeed, in the name of the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, the federal government has provided thousands of pieces of military-grade body armor, mine-resistant armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, grenade launchers, helicopters, and night-vision goggles to local police and sheriffs. Almost every county in Americahas received equipment from these programs.
But has policing really become so dangerous that we need to arm peace officers like an invading army? The answer is no. It’s never been safer to be a cop.
To start with, few police officers die in the line of duty. Since 1900, only 18,781 police officers have died from any work-related injury. That’s an average of 164 a year. In absolute terms, officer fatalities peaked in 1930 (during alcohol prohibition) at 297, spiking again in the 1970s before steadily declining since.
If you look at police fatalities adjusted for the US population, the decline is even starker. 2013 was the safest year for American policing since 1875.
Policing doesn’t even make it into the top 10 most dangerous American professions. Logging has a fatality rate 11 times higher, at 127.8 per 100,000. Fishing: 117 per 100,000. Pilot/flight engineer: 53.4 per 100,000. It’s twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as a cop—at 22.1 per 100,000.
Another point to bear in mind is that not all officer fatalities are homicides. Out of the 100 deaths in 2013…(read more)