I got the initial heads-up on this one from a Violence Policy Center Tweet: “Study: US police fatalities increase 43 percent.” Following the link to ajc.com, I discovered that the jump in police fatalities was a mid-year stat. It’s a gi-normous leap in percentage terms, but not absolute numbers. We’re talking an increase from 61 to 87 fallen officers. Did you know that the U.S. is home to over 17,000 law enforcement agencies? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “police and detectives held about 883,600 jobs in 2008.” The number of officers who’ve died in the line of duty so far this year is less than .0001 percent of that total. Linking to the original stats, we learn that the number and percentage of officers shot to death is smaller still.
The chart above comes to us from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In case your eyes are as bad as mine and/or you share my red – green color blindness, the year-to-date 2010 law enforcement death toll breaks down as follows:
29 Automobile Crash
9 Struck [by vehicle]
4 Motorcycle Crash
It’s pretty obvious why the stat gatherers separated automobile and motorcycle fatalities, and created a separate category for struck by a vehicle. Combined, they would lead the league table at 42 deaths, diminishing the importance of shooting deaths.
That said, the organization acknowledges the relative importance of the problem:
If current trends continue, 2010 will be the 13th consecutive year in which more law enforcement officers are killed in traffic-related incidents than die from any other single cause. Traffic-related incidents—which include automobile and motorcycle crashes, as well as officers struck while outside their vehicles—accounted for more than 48 percent of the fatalities between January 1 and June 30, 2010. Firearms-related fatalities made up nearly 36 percent, and deaths from all other causes combined accounted for the remaining 16 percent.
The key takeaway: despite all the rhetoric about America being the “Wild West,” it’s not. At least not for lawmen.