Calling Foghorn: Deconstruct Cop Gun Death Stat STAT

Stats can kill. Rational analysis. Whenever you see a stat-based MSM story, you can bet that someone somewhere is trying to “sell” a particular point of view. For example, this from officer.com: “Police officer deaths, including those fatally shot in the line of duty, are on pace to rise for the second straight year, despite a sustained decline in violent crime across the country. Overall officer deaths are up 14% so far in 2011, while deadly shootings have increased by 33%, according to a midyear report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), which tracks law enforcement fatalities.” What’s wrong with/missing from this picture . . .

First, remember that two is 100% more than one. And it really helps to know what you’re counting before you start counting it. In this case, “overall officer deaths” includes car accidents, which are far and away the leading cause of farm buying for American law enforcement officers.

As for that 33% increase in firearms-related police fatalities, “deadly shootings reached a 20-year high in the first half of this year. Forty officers were killed by gunfire, up from 30 in the first six months of 2010.”

So, up 10 then. That’s a tragedy, especially for ten families. But a little context would help those of us who don’t want to base public policy, police procedure or gun control legislation on anecdotal evidence that leads to overly-emotional conclusions. You know, politically-driven analysis like this:

Craig Floyd, the memorial fund’s chairman, said the numbers suggest that recent cuts in local law enforcement training and equipment budgets because of the economy may be contributing to the increase in deaths.

“When you slash those budgets time and time again, you are putting communities at risk and officers at risk,” Floyd said.

Last year, nearly 70% of police agencies cut back or eliminated training, according to a survey of 608 departments conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank.

False synchronicity is not a pirate copy of a Police CD. It’s the belief that two concomitant events indicate causality. I think. Anyway, something must be done! Taxpayer money must be spent! The Feds must step in!

The mounting casualties prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a federal officer-safety initiative in March that required federal prosecutors to meet with state and local police to ensure they were taking advantage of federal grants for bullet-resistant vests, training and other resources.

Melekian said he was meeting with Justice officials Wednesday to determine what more the federal government could do to assist local law enforcement agencies.

This story is missing one key factoid: the total number of cops in the U.S. Which is: around 800,000. So 40 officers killed by gunfire. Do the math. According to the NLEOMF, “on average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours.” Define “line of duty” and, while you’re at it, “physical related.”

As I’m on a boat (and), I’d appreciate a little Googling on where cops rank in terms of the dangerousness of their work. Rational thought thanks you. Nick?

comments

  1. avatar Gabriel says:

    Does “killed by gunfire” include negligent discharge and/or suicide, like a lot of the violent gun death statistics do?

  2. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

    You rang?

    Oh. Right. Time to break out the TI-84…

  3. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    If this is your idea of “taking a vacation,” I can’t wait to see how you define “retirement.” Sheesh…workaholic much? Go. Enjoy. We got this. Now get a sunburn or Montezuma’s revenge or something!

    1. avatar Tim says:

      It is never work when you love what you do!

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, law enforcement isn’t in the top 10 most dangeous industries. I feel for the families and friend of officers who died in the LOD, but sanitationmen have a higher rate of on-the-job death and serious injury. Let’s remember also that LEOs go to work every day with pistols on their hips, tasers, pepper spray, shotguns in the car and a whole host of other gear. Wouldn’t all of that stuff lead a rational human being to feel that there might possibly be an element of danger inherent in the job? Finally, while I have no statistics to back me up, I’d be willing to wager a small sum that a higher percentage of lawyers die of coronaries at their desks every year than the percentage of officers who are shot by bad guys.

    The grestest danger a LEO faces isn’t being shot. Depression from being exposed to the human misery that a cop may see during a career in law enforcement can be a worse problem.

  5. avatar Steve says:

    “…Lies, damn lies and statistics.” (Mark Twain)

  6. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are too common in ‘law enforcement,’ particularly when you include prison guards and jailers. My money says ‘physical related’ includes medical causes that occur on the job.

  7. avatar John says:

    “There are lies, damned lies and statistics” — Mark Twain

    1. avatar Bob H says:

      and never the twain shall meet…

  8. avatar Texas Deputy says:

    I regularly teach inservice at my department; according to many national national stats, the most dangerous call is still a domestic violence call, and being shot during such a call is the highest risk. By coincidence, I just spent another 8 hours today attending an inservice. In class today we had officers from over 50 miles away.

    As far as budget cuts and training, my department slashed the training budget, but still offers all of the state mandated inservice training, plus additional training. At our semi-annual firearms qualifications, the department has reduced the course of fire in order to save on ammo costs (but still meets state minimum standards).

    Because my department is still offering inservice training, and many other departments have lost almost all of their training budgets, I am teaching inservice not just to local officers, but to officers coming in some cases over 100 miles for training. A department from 100 miles away, that has been regularly sending officers to my classes, has invited me and two other trainers from my department to go to their training facility to provide inservice their officers. While that agency is not paying us or our mileage, the officers themselves offered to do a first class cookout for our lunch.

    Our regional police academy has a sizable training budget provided annually by the regional COG (Council of Governments), and offers both the state mandated inservice training, and several other excellent classes, mostly for free.

    One of my daughters is an peace officer with a state licensing and enforcement agency, and that department uses its license revenues and fines to supplement training. She has a lot of .40 training ammo and range time, and has a range qualification more comprehensive than my agency. She also seems to attend some inservice training somewhere in the state every few weeks, and has training hours far in excess of state minimum requirements.

    As far as officer fatalities, we had a local officer (not my agency) killed about two weeks ago while laying a spike strip. Following a lengthy high speed chase, it is ALLEGED that the perpetrator intentionally aimed for rammed the officer’s car at a high rate of speed (around 100mph) , pushing the officer’s car into him.

    Just this morning, It is alleged that the perps stole computers from a big-box store this morning, and were chased at high speeds in a lengthy, multi-jurisdictional chase that ended when the alleged perp’s car rammed a city police car, ran off of the interstate, and burst into flames. No officers were injured, but the perps are in the hospital.

    Traffic and auto related deaths are a big issue, just as the pic chart shows.

  9. avatar David Brown says:

    Anyone interested in a very humorous and extremely enlightening lesson in working “numbers” to your advantage should watch these clips,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62rkSS6Y_7Y

    Here’s Penn and Teller’s take on gun control. Great stuff,

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