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Police Killed vs. Killed by Police: a Statistical Perspective

Underlying the convictions of reflexive proponents and/or apologists of police killing citizens is often the assumption that being a cop is sincerely fraught with the danger of death in the line of duty.  Even here at FDL I’ve read a few comments that say if a cop is facing ‘an armed person,’ he should shoot, never mind that many of the alleged weapons often turned out to be cell phones, rather obvious toy guns, once even a spoon, a wallet, or in the case of John Crawford, an unloaded BB gun he’d taken off the Beavercreek Walmart shelf and was holding while chatting on his cell phone.  Many of the victims killed by cops in the past several years indeed had weapons of some sort, but were not ‘brandished toward police’ as so many cops testi-lied in their reports.

Sure, being a cop can be a dangerous profession, but far less dangerous statistically than most people imagine.  Consider the flip side: that cops’ abject fear of blacks, Latinos/Latinas, and the mentally ill (read: the other), often leads to completely unwarranted executions in far too many cases.  It’s the same reaction of rage over a person being either unwilling, or more importantly, unable to follow police orders that has led to so many summary executions.  An email friend who’s been involved in several states with police brutality and assassinations over multiple decades posits that perhaps 90% of recent episodes did not have to result in death of a ‘suspect.’  Whether or not that number is correct, clearly it’s closer to the truth than law enforcement would ever admit.

Two nights ago in Ferguson, MO, two cops were injured by gunshot; one claimed to be investigating a robbery at a local community center when one of two suspects ran away, and one turned, and shot him in his upper arm (AP had reported earlier that the cop was a female).  The story is evolving, and now it’s turned out it was only one alleged would-be thief, who has yet to be apprehended.  So, we’ll see if they recover bullets, see if his lapel camera was on or off, or what.  Missing evidence implicating police culpability or accountability is so prevalent that it seems baked into the system by now.

The second shooting was apparently on the interstate, multiple shooters allegedly having fired at an off-duty cop not in uniform, and driving his personal vehicle.  Both came during the protests following police chief Tom Jackson’s kinda/sorta apology for the death of Michael Brown.  Immediately after the frantic and rumor-laden reports, the #Ferguson on Twitter comment stream was plum full of sick, racist, classist lies and killer cop support.

Excuse my digression, but it seemed a necessary prelude for the statistics.

The Statistics

Killed by Police on Facebook has kept a running tally of as many corporate media reports of killings since May, 2013.  All killings, never front-loading’ necessary or unnecessary’ opinions.  But by their tally, which they know is necessarily incomplete, the numbers show that since Jan. 1 2014, as of today, police have killed 818 people in this nation.

Now let’s look at the figures from the ‘Officer Down Memorial Page, Remembering All of Law Enforcement’s Heroes’.

On their ‘Honoring Officers Killed in 2014’ page they list:

Line of Duty Deaths: 79

Assault: 1
Automobile accident: 18
Drowned: 1
Fire: 1
Gunfire: 35
Gunfire (Accidental): 1  (Oopsie.)
Heart attack: 8
Motorcycle accident: 2
Struck by vehicle: 3
Vehicle pursuit: 2
Vehicular assault: 7  (What is that,, by the by?  The site doesn’t say)

Included are sheriff deputies, state police, prison and jail security guards, border patrol, highway patrol, all military police, and even Forest Service (and I’d assume) BLM security police.

But even if all police deaths in the line of duty were counted, even the ones that seem to be only indirect caused by police ‘duties’, it still amounts to 818 people killed by police v. 79 police killed, leading a thinking person to wonder who’s more at risk by whom?


This could be the natural end for a readable diary, but my tendency is to provide too many extras for readers who want to know more, and I do have a lot more, including bits and bobs from the following articles.  For now, I’ll just give the titles (if rather haphazardly), and if you want more, either click into them and ask questions, make comments, or I’ll provide the bits I saw as key.

Policing Empire: The call to demilitarize police overlooks the longstanding link between policing and empire’ by by Stuart Schrader  (Beware of ‘police reform’)

David Correia’s Sept. 21 ‘Albuquerque City Council Abolishes Police Oversight Commission, Creates New Civilian Police Oversight Agency’  (ahead of a negotiated city-DoJ Consent Decree)

No Charges in Ohio Police Killing of John Crawford as Walmart Video Contradicts 911 Caller Account: Newly released surveillance footage shows major discrepancies between a 911 caller’s account, and what really happened’

Ferguson demands high fees to turn over city files’

Undue Force’ (Baltimore Sun): The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police’

Current law gives police wide latitude to use deadly force: Ferguson shooting case renews debate over whether officers have too much leeway, too little accountability’ (WaPo)  (It includes relevant SCOTUS case law)

In atypical approach, grand jury in Ferguson shooting receives full measure of case’  (It could be titled slow-walk the case before the GJ to cover county prosecutor McCulloch’s ass or ‘bore them to death so that they don’t issue an indictment against Darren Wilson)  Last I’d read, November was mentioned for the end of the evidence phase.  No police report, no FBI report…just lots of…who knows what?

And this lulu you’ll no doubt love: ‘Seattle police aren’t using enough force, internal memo says’

A bonus short film: ‘Film Exposes Militarized Police Facts Day Ahead of Hearings in Congress’ from Tuesday, 09 September 2014 by Brave New Films  (Yeah, you know it all already…)


(cross-posted at Café

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