We all know that policing is a dangerous occupation. It seems more so recently. But it’s a danger that’s hard to quantify. If you try to look up the most dangerous jobs in America, you’ll no doubt have to scroll a bit before you see police officer. Most of these rankings tend to use total on the job deaths, or in an attempt at the scientific method, total on the job deaths weighed against total employees. Either way you look at it, police typically make the list, but nowhere near the top. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 133 officers died on-duty last year, and again when weighed against the nearly one million sworn officers in America, that makes for pretty good odds for guys like me.
The conclusion drawn from these comparisons and lists is inevitably that policing is not as dangerous as it’s cracked up to be.
The number of officers currently working is confounded however, and difficult to nail down; I’ve seen estimates for total officers from 600,000 to more than 900,000. And how many of those actually wear a uniform and patrol a beat everyday? Two-thirds? Half? Probably less. The number of officers who are actually in harm’s way on a somewhat regular basis is but a fraction of those who have sworn in. Continue reading “Policing Isn’t That Dangerous?”
Body cams are all the rage. They are demanded, with increasing and disturbing vehemence, to be as much a part of the police officer’s uniform as the badge. Terms such as “modern” or “21st Century” policing are tossed around; which seems to me a classic case of “if it ain’t broke…”
Perhaps that’s the wrong impression. Updating police capabilities with the times and emerging technology is important. Motor vehicles, semi-automatic firearms, lightweight effective armor, computers and GPS, each had a drastic impact, improving the efficiency and safety of our law enforcement. But policing itself has remained mostly the same. The aim of body camera proponents is much different, the goal is to change policing at its core. It’s a goal that the body cam by itself cannot hope to achieve.
Many agencies have already successfully deployed body cams. But these agencies tend to be small, and any problems encountered are correspondingly small. The cost and complexity will increase exponentially (as all things do) with the size of the department. The videos subsequently released from body cams by the agencies have mostly been positive and have shown uses of force where the officer had no choice. They show how quickly a mundane conversation can turn into mortal combat, and whether victorious or defeated, how quickly that combat can be brought to an end. This last point clearly illustrates the necessity for violence and ferocity.