I know that cops generally do not like math. Its’ not my favorite subject either, but in this case I need you to look at the numbers and you don’t have to do any math, unless you want to.
I often endeavor to be the voice of reason in discussions regarding police use of force on social media. Whenever someone comments about the “trigger happy cops” or the “out of control use of deadly force” I try to inform them of the facts.
Borrowing from internationally known LE trainer, Brian Willis’s, Tedx Talk, “The Most Dangerous Weapon” video. Brian cites a 2011 National Institute of Justice study that stated there is an estimated 40 million contacts between police and the public each year. Of those 40 million contacts, less than 1% involve any use of force beyond putting controlling hands on and/or handcuffing the suspect. The incidents of the use of Deadly Force, not people shot killed by police, but situations involving the use of deadly force came out to 0.00002865%.
The estimated number of contacts is considered low by some. If that is correct then the numbers would be even smaller. Some will argue that the NIJ study estimates of the application of deadly force is way too low.
Doubling the estimated percentage of applications of deadly force by the police and it is still minute. Of course, the logic of statistics and research may only influence the minds of reasonable, rational people. The people with an agenda, or a bias, or a prejudice will have difficulty accepting the outcome when it runs counter to their own strongly held personal beliefs.
An additional statistic that gets thrown around is the higher number of incarceration of black males versus white males based on population. Since blacks only comprise 13% of the population then their arrest and incarceration rates should closely follow that number according to some. For some, this clearly indicates a strong racially biased criminal justice system.
Because some choose to look at those numbers and fail to take into account a higher level of involvement in crime by blacks as the reason for the higher incarceration rates. Additional studies that take those factors into account by looking at previous criminal history that directly effects incarceration and sentencing clearly show that there is in fact, no bias when it comes to race.
However, some still continue to cite the statistics, yet they don’t point out in dismay at the clearly sexually biased criminal justice system that disproportionally incarcerates far more males than females. Why not? Because we all know that males commit far more crimes than females and the disproportion in criminality is what creates the wide disparity in numbers.
Yet, despite facts like these politicians and activists continue to cite the same statistics to attempt prove their point. Some seem to be predisposed to believe them anyway. They won’t listen to logic. They do not see the need to do their own research. They will be influenced by what their friends say. They will be influenced by what they read or watch in the main stream and social media. They will continue to be influenced by their own personal biases.
Because you take the position of being are a reasonable, rational, intelligent human being you wouldn’t be influence in that manner. Friends, the main stream and social media and politicians don’t influence you. You clearly see the facts.
Here is a little test for you. Let’s take a look at high profile police shootings. I will define high profile as a shooting that garners national/international attention, major protests and/or riots. Take the number of high profile police officer shootings in your state in the last year and then divide that into the estimated number of officers in your home state. For my home state, that would be 1 shooting, the shooting involving Officer Noor, dividing that into 11,000 (the estimated number of officers in Minnesota). It comes out to 0.00009091%.
If you add in the second and third cases, 2015 Jamar Clark and 2016 Philandro Castille, it comes out to 0.000272727%. The math is really easy if your state hasn’t had any.
Count the number of high-profile police shootings that have occurred in the last year, divide it by the estimated number of police officers in the United States. I will use 806,400 officers, one of many estimates. If you came up with, say 6 shootings, it comes out to 0.00000744%. Now use all the high-profile shooting cases starting with Ferguson in 2014. Add in any other high-profile police cases like Grey, Garner or Bland. Do the math.
The statistics are mathematically clear. The chance of you being involved in a high-profile police shooting are very slim. What do the statistics say about the drop in police contacts, stops, and arrests? What do the statistics say about the rise in crime in those areas where officers have de-policed? Crimes like robbery, burglary and murder. Those are real, whole numbers not infinitesimal fractions of a percent. Those numbers are human lives lost with rising homicide rates.
The stated goal of some of the protest groups is to de-police society. Fear is the tool of those who would eliminate us.
Fear blinds people to reason and facts. Fear can make something appear much greater than it is. Fear helps them attain their goal, the elimination of the police.
They use the main stream media. They use social media. They use politicians. They use them to create fear. Fear in the minds of the public. Fear in the eyes of politicians. Fear in the minds of cops.
Fear sells. The media runs on likes, comments, hits, shares and what’s trending. It’s not about news, it’s not about truth, it’s about what sells.
Are you buying, what they are selling
Fear can also get votes.
Fear also causes some cops to de-police. The increase in crime is now used as an example of how the police do not care about the people they are “sworn to protect and serve”. Fear is the tool of those who would eliminate us.
In 2016 there were 145 officer deaths, that’s 0.0001798% of officers. 63 officers were shot and killed, that’s 0.00007812%.
Your fear of being shot and killed in this job did not stop you from taking on the job. However, a much smaller chance of being involved in a high-profile case stops some from doing their job.
And I understand your concerns. But cops have been newsworthy to the media since there have been media. Politicians have been pandering for votes since elections were invented. Cops have been prosecuted for political expediency long before any of us were born. The only difference today than past years is the proliferation of social media that make you see it more often. But seeing cases around the country that may not have come to your attention prior to the internet doesn’t mean it’s’ happening more often. What is different is the addition of paid professional protesters and anti-police groups who are far better at getting out their views than we are at ours.
That doesn’t add up. Facts based on valid information clearly indicate that you should accept what you know to be true, rather than embracing fear. Fear can be defined as by Gavin DeBecker, False Expectations Appearing Real. The choice is ultimately yours. Fact versus fear. You have the power to decide and to live your life and career every day, one day at a time.
Those who would rid society of the police represent far less than 1% of 1% of the population. Polls indicate that most people respect the police. We need to fight the fear with facts in the media, in our communities and with our politicians. Some will not listen and we will never reach them. Most importantly we need to take back the streets by doing our jobs with respect, professionalism and facts. The fact is, we took an oath to protect and serve. An oath that we believed in 100%.
Duane Wolfe is a retired Minnesota Peace Officer with more than 25 years of service. During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor. He is also a full-time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.