Often we hear the echo of our security culture tell us policing is an inherently dangerous job, and that therefore we should give deference to these people’s judgment whenever potentially hostile situations arise. In such scenarios whereby the killing of a civilian occurs, we are perpetually told the use of lethal force was not only necessary, but simply part of an ‘incredibly dangerous’ profession — that these killings merely are a result of cops protecting themselves in life-threatening situations.
Well I call bullshit.
On October 22 last year, Andy Lopez, a Mexican-American 13 year old boy, was shot seven times by Santa Rosa officer Erick Gelhaus, a man with a history of using excessive force in his duties. Lopez was walking home from a friend’s house holding an airsoft toy-gun designed to resemble an assault rifle. Gelhaus has claimed he thought the child was holding an AK-47, a detail suggesting he could see the toy-gun with clarity. Gelhaus says he shouted to the 13 year old to drop the ‘gun’. Andy turned around, allegedly holding the toy up. Lopez died thereafter, taking multiple gunshots — one of which through his chest — when Gelhaus opened fire.
Gelhaus did not wait for backup. He did not investigate what he thought he saw. He was in absolutely no danger. His judgement smacked of shoot now, think later. In fact, Andy Lopez, like the rest of us, was more in need of protection from Gelhaus the moment the deputy saw him than Gelhaus needed to ‘protect’ himself from Lopez.
Cops Are More Likely To Shoot You Than You Are To Shoot Them
Last November the Activist Post ran a story about the propensity of police officers killing civilians. Stated was the following:
Since 9/11, and the subsequent militarization of the police by the Department of Homeland Security, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by US police officers. The civilian death rate is nearly equal to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq. In fact, you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.
That statistic is alarming enough considering if the 4,489 American soldiers killed in combat in Iraq constitute a condition of war, then the killing of 5,000 American civilians by United States police departments ought to be viewed as a war on we the People by our very own government.
Still, having watched the Lopez family struggle for justice thus far, I wanted to know better how more civilians have been killed by cops in the United States than soldiers have died in Iraq.
I decided to compare the number of American citizens’ deaths by police directly to the number of police officers’ deaths by citizens since the start of the Iraq war; after all, if an officers job is so dangerous, it is we the policed who make it dangerous.
Since 2003, as documented by the FBI, there have been approximately 587 deaths in the line of duty directly as result of civilians’ felonious actions, i.e., lethal assault, shooting, manslaughter etc. Below is the breakdown by year.
Officers Feloniously Killed Since the Start of Iraq War
- 2003 — 52
- 2004 — 57
- 2005 — 55
- 2006 — 48
- 2007 — 57
- 2008 — 41
- 2009 — 48
- 2010 — 56
- 2011 — 72
- 2012 — 48
- 2013 — 53 (data not yet available, substituted 10 year average)
The Myth Of the Most Dangerous Job
After a minute of simple math (5,000/587 = 8.52), what might seem obvious became much clearer: A cop is far more likely — 8.5 times — to kill you than you are to kill a cop. Not only is a cop 8 times more likely to kill you than a terrorists is, but ‘the law’ is 8.5 times more life-threatening to you than any threat you pose an officer whatsoever.
Stated another way, when an officer comes into contact with you, you are 8.5 times less of a threat to them than the perception our culture proliferates. The idea that police have an incredibly dangerous job is what we Southerners call a tall-tale, a stretch of the truth to bolster an ego unwilling to accept mediocrity. Not to take away from what many fair-minded officers do every day, but as those stubborn things called facts would have it, the police profession is less dangerous than farming, fishing, logging, and trash collecting, as well as six other jobs.
Now is the time to burst the cop myth and to stop giving them the deference to murder our friends and family in the street.