The Vespiary

Site => News => Topic started by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on September 11, 2015, 11:55:39 PM

Title: Fearmongering Hard At Work
Post by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on September 11, 2015, 11:55:39 PM



September 10, 2015
They certainly aren’t the only ones. Here are some more examples of media outlets and politicians spreading the hysteria:

“War On Police Sparks National Crime Wave”
“Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: There’s A War On Cops And Media ‘Are Not In Police Officers’ Corner'”
“Police face recruiting shortage due to war on cops”
“Do Cops’ Lives Matter to Obama?”
“[New York Police Chief] Bratton warns of tough times ahead due to ‘war on cops'”
As I’ve noted here before, we’re seeing similar rhetoric from politicians, particularly from GOP presidential hopefuls, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker.

All of this fact-free fearmongering is having an effect. A Rasmussen poll taken last week found that 58 percent of respondents now believe there is now a “war on police.” Just 27 percent disagreed.

So let’s go through the numbers. Again. So far, 2015 is on pace to see 35 felonious killings of police officers. If that pace holds, this year would end with the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades. Here’s a graph depicting annual killings of cops with firearms from Mark A. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute:  But these are just the raw numbers. If we look at the rate of killings of cops, the trend is more pronounced. There are two ways examine the rate of police killings.

The first is to look at the rate of killings of cops per 100K cops on the street. This figure is somewhat difficult to calculate because there are widely varying estimates of how many cops are on the street. It depends on how you define “police officer,” who is doing the estimating, and various other factors.

But if you use consistent sources, the number of police has generally gone up, while the number of officers killed has generally gone down. So your graph looks something like this one, from Dan Wang:  The other way you could measure the rate of killings of police officers is to look at the number with respect to the overall population. Here’s another graph from Perry that plots those figures:   

So when police advocates say that 2014 saw an 80+ percent increase in homicides of cops over 2013, remember a few things: First, 2013 wasn’t just an all-time low, it was an all-time low by a significant margin. Second, the 2013 figure was so low that even a small increase will look large when expressed as a percentage. Third, the figure for the following year, 2014, (51 officers killed) was essentially consistent with the average for the previous five years (50 killed), and still lower than any five-year average going back to 1960. (See this graph, also from Wang.) Fourth, again, 2015 is on pace (35 killings) to be lower than any year but 2013. Another common response from police organizations and their advocates is that the reduction in fatalities is due to better medical care and improvements in protective gear such as bulletproof vests. Both things are undoubtedly true. But assaults on police officers are in decline as well. That is, not only are fewer people killing police officers, fewer people are trying to harm them. These graphs from Stoughton show the raw numbers of assaults on police: 

None of these things are indicative of a “war.” On the contrary, all of this new skepticism, criticism, forced transparency, and mistrust of the police is — again — coming even as violence against police officers is reaching historic lows. This is how a democracy is supposed to work. It’s something worth celebrating.

Instead, police groups and their advocates are claiming that the mere act of criticizing a government entity is akin to declaring war on it, and that therefore, police critics are culpable every time a police officer is murdered. (And given the way they ignore and abuse statistics, those critics are also apparently culpable for a lot of murders that never happened.) They’re essentially saying that exercising constitutional rights and participating in democracy are in and of themselves acts of violence. And in many cases, this is coming from the very people that the government empowers to use actual violence.

That is something worth worrying about.