Though right-wing commentators continue to decry the ‘war on cops,’ the latest data released by the country’s top law enforcement undermines that alarmist narrative.
According to the FBI’s annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, released this week, there were fewer police deaths in 2017 than in 2016. In 2016, 118 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty while in 2017, that number was 93.
More telling is the type of death the officers suffered. Last year, 46 officers were killed “feloniously” on the job while 47 died in accidents. As the FBI’s press release noted, “Both numbers have decreased from 2016, during which 66 officers were feloniously killed and 52 were accidentally killed, for a total of 118 line-of-duty deaths.”
The data is collected from “local, state, tribal, campus, and federal law enforcement agencies from around the country, as well as organizations that track officer deaths.”
A closer look at the statistics reveals further just how nonexistent the war on cops actually is. Of the 46 officers feloniously killed on the job, five were ambushed (defined as “entrapment/premeditation” by the FBI) and 3 were victims of unprovoked attacks. Twenty-one died during “investigative or enforcement activities,” which include traffic stops, investigating suspicious persons, or tactical situations.
In other words, they were killed doing the jobs they signed up to do (consider the popular refrain that ‘cops risk their lives’ — that’s part of the job description), though police officer does not even crack the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States.
The takeaway here is that while some officers die on the job - and that is unfortunate - the deliberate sentiment to kill officers simply because they are police officers is not on the rise.
Thirty-five officers died in car accidents — more than four times the number killed by ambushes and unprovoked attacks (eight) — and according to the FBI, “of the 29 officers killed in automobile accidents, 12 were wearing seatbelts, and 15 were not,” though two of the officers not wearing seatbelts were sitting in parked cars. Regardless, more officers died in car accidents while not wearing seatbelts (a violation of the laws they enforce, as it happens) than died as a result of flagrant attacks on their lives isolated from situational circumstances.
Further, the total number of officers killed by accident far dwarfs the number killed in ambushes or unprovoked attacks, and the total is still greater than all law enforcement deaths recorded in the annual report.
Further still, the number of cops killed feloniously was higher in 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 than it was last year, suggesting the rate of cop murders is subject to fluctuation and not consistently on the rise.
In another relevant detail, zero federal law enforcement agents were killed in 2017. In 2016, one was killed.
Despite the ongoing claims that police are under assault (as they continue to assault the public) — and despite congressional action to designate killing police officers a hate crime — for yet another year, this war on cops notion is proving to be nothing more than a myth.