Saturday, December 27, 2014

How dangerous is policing?


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

December 27, 2014


                At the December 26 memorial for the two murdered police officers in New York City, Vice President Biden highlighted the dangers of policing, citing how families of police officers must worry every day whether their loved ones will come home safely.  The FBI reports that in 2013, 76 police officers died while on duty, 49 in traffic accidents (not counting one officer intentionally run down), 27 feloniously killed.  The quadrennial FBI census reports that in 2008, there were 765,000 sworn officers in the US, an increase of 9,500 over 2007.  That suggests that there were approximately 800,000 officers in 2013.  That suggests that the occupational death rate for police officers was approximately 9 per hundred thousand officers, 6/100,000 traffic deaths, 3/100,000 killed by murder or manslaughter, while the rate of all US inhabitants killed by murder or non-negligent manslaughter was 4.7/100,000.

                Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013, the on-the-job death rate for construction workers was about the same as for police officers, 9.4/100,000, roughly equal to the risk of dying while policing.  For those working in construction and warehousing, and in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction was 13.1/100,000, and for those working in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, the rate was 22.2/100,000.

                In sum, family members of those working in construction have as much reason to fear their loved ones dying on the job as do family members of police officers, and police officers are less likely to be criminal homicide victims on the job than to become victims simply for living in the country.  The FBI only reports “justifiable” homicides by police, 320 in 2013, more than 10 times the rate at which they were unlawfully slain.

                Fortunately, the number of police officers killed on duty has steadily declined in recent years.  Any wrongful homicide or death on the job is a tragedy, but occupational risk scarcely accounts for patterns of police use of excessive force in communities of color.  Love and peace, hal

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