The prevailing trend to choose what one believes in the media is not just problematic, it is dangerous.
According to some media outlets, there are two virulent plaques in America. The first is that the police are killing people in the course of their duties more than ever before. And that there is a racial bias to the shootings.
This is not just false, it is demonstrably false based on many data sources from official government agencies to multiple media outlets that show a consistent reduction in these incidents.
The second dangerous misconception is that the number of officers killed in the line of duty is higher than it’s ever been and rising. Again, the premise is not supported by the numbers.
US officers killed as the result of crime, 1970-2015
(Green) Officers killed as result of crime (Red) Preceding 10-year average
Preliminary 2018 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities
January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. January 1 through July 15, 2017
Please note: These numbers reflect total officer fatalities comparing
January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. January 1 through July 15, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36826297
Now, this is where these two fallacies form a deadly combination. The perception of those inclined to unlawfully possess firearms or otherwise commit a crime, when confronted by police officers, tend toward a more violent level of resistance.
From the officer’s perspective, they anticipate each confrontation likely will pose a deadly threat to themselves or their fellow officers. Officers aren’t trained to apply different risk assessments of suspects based on skin tone. We teach them that every encounter is a potentially deadly one. It is a necessary survival mindset, but one that must be tempered by experience and sound judgment.
When officers operate in an environment rife with false or inflated perceptions of risk, the appropriate level of caution and tactics may be unreasonably amplified.
The false perception of a problem, promulgated and promoted by the media frenzy, masks the reality and the results are deadly.
There is also the political factor officers face; both internal and external. Politicians and some members of the command staff, far removed from the realities of the street, are quick to criticize officers for political expediency or job preservation. Decisions made in difficult circumstances under enormous pressure with mere seconds to choose are autopsied for days by people who may have never found themselves in such situations.
Thus officers confront the perfect storm; all-to-common violent behavior by individuals with no respect for law, an atmosphere charged with perceived high levels of risk, and the possibility of being thrown to the wolves by politics.
Is it any wonder officers are shying away, either intentionally or by direction, from effective street policing. As a friend of mine, a former supervisor with a federal agency, liked to say, “Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems.”
Officers have the right to live and to protect themselves. We owe them the opportunity to do their job based on sound judgment and accurate information.
The loss of any officer is a tragedy. Even with the number of officers being killed showing a decline, one is too many.
Police officers must face the reality of the number of weapons, both legal and illegal, in this country. This almost guarantees a tragedy. Whether it is a felon with an extensive and repetitive criminal record on the street because of the incestuous nature of the lawyers (prosecutors and defense counsel) and judges minimizing cases for expediency or an angry and distraught individual, absent any prior criminal record, the guns pose a danger.
Add into the mix a “corrections” system that in many instances in nothing more than an advanced degree program for crime and you have all the ingredients for a fatal encounter.
Combine the misconceptions of these false and fable-like stories with the prevalence of weapons in America and tragic incidents like the most recent shooting of an officer and an innocent bystander in Weymouth, MA will become more and more common. The trend toward fewer police-suspect confrontations will end and likely grow.
Cops will die all because of a lie.