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Another Study Shows There’s No ‘War on Police’

by Bill Barton

"Currently, the ‘war on cops’ thesis is not supported by any evidence, and we apply the 50-year lens in this study to provide important context for understanding recent trends in officer deaths.” That’s the conclusion of an in-depth study, some 25 pages long, “Assessing dangerousness in policing: An analysis of officer deaths in the United States, 1970-2016,” that was recently released by Michael D. White of Arizona State University, Lisa M. Dario of Florida Atlantic University, and John A. Shjarback of the University of Texas at El Paso.

White, the lead writer, is associated with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State.

The study found that “The number of line-of-duty deaths declined dramatically over the last five decades. Policing is a much safer profession now than it was 50 years ago. Despite a 75% drop in deaths, however … other trends are troubling ... such as the stability in deaths during auto pursuits and a two-fold increase in deaths from vehicular assaults.”

There’s certainly no question that policing remains among the most dangerous professions, second only to taxi-driving in terms of workplace homicides. The number of deaths continues to drop despite a number of high-profile incidents in which cops were targeted and killed: Brooklyn, two killed, December 2014; Dallas, five killed, July 2016; and Baton Rouge, three killed, July 2016.

The study states, “Felonious attacks on police are a statistically rare event. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2009, police made 13.6 million arrests ... and data from the FBI’s (2010) LEOKA [Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted] program indicates that 57,268 officers were assaulted that same year—translating into aggression against police in less than one half of 1% of arrests.”

Researchers have documented an association between aggressive patrol style and greater rates of assault, noting “agencies that have a culture of aggressiveness will likely produce, not just more force against subjects, but also violence against police.”

Departments have often enacted policies aimed at curbing the extensive use of high-speed pursuits to catch suspects. And officers have often ignored these policies. “There is also an observed tendency for officers to drive aggressively when responding to calls, increasing the chance of accidents, injuries, and death. Aggressive action by officers—not just in terms of driving, but also in terms of interactions with the public—appears to be greeted in kind,” according to techdirt.com.

As the study explains, “The focus on police officer line-of-duty deaths has intensified considerably since the summer of 2014. The increased attention can be traced back to several high-profile deadly force incidents involving minority citizens (e.g., Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott), which have led to public protests, civil disorder, and a national movement demanding police reform.

“A contentious debate has emerged over the existence of a ‘Ferguson Effect’ [There is] no evidence that the events in Ferguson (and after) led to an increase in felonious killings of police officers … no evidence of either an abrupt or gradual increase in felonious homicides post-Ferguson.”

As techdirt.com put it, “Another unsurprising finding is that the so-called ‘Ferguson effect’ is pure bullshit.” 

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Sources: techdirt.com, onlinelibrary.wiley.com

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