Data released by the FBI shows that 2015 was one of the safest years for U.S. law enforcement in recorded history, reported the Huffington Post.
The FBI’s preliminary statistics, part of a larger Uniform Crime Reporting release coming in the fall, indicate that 41 police officers were intentionally killed in the U.S. while in the line of duty in 2015. Every officer death is tragic, of course, but this number marks a decrease of nearly 20 percent compared to the 51 law enforcement officers killed in 2014.
Of the officers intentionally killed in the line of duty last year, all but three were shot by a suspect, according to the FBI data. The rest were deliberately struck by a vehicle.
The data contrasts with the claims from some conservative media outlets andpolice union bosses who have continued to peddle the narrative that officers areunder siege. The past two years have seen a surge in police reform activism in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, and other high-profile instances of police killing civilians. But critics of this movement allege that groups like Black Lives Matter promote violence against officers, and have helped wage a “war on cops.”
That misinformation may have contributed to a skewed public perception of the issue. In a 2015 Rasmussen poll, 58 percent of voters said they believed there was a “war on police” in the United States.
But the FBI’s data has repeatedly contradicted these claims.
“Any felonious death of a police officer is a tragedy, but the data show that the police officers’ job is not becoming more deadly,” David Harris, a professor of law at University of Pittsburgh School of Law who studies policing, told The Huffington Post.
“The FBI statistics on police officer felonious deaths show that belief that the job is growing more dangerous, because of protests against police or because of the demand for reform to police practices, is simply wrong,” Harris wrote in an email. “Belief to the contrary may be sincere, but it has no basis in fact.”
An average of 64 law enforcement officers have been feloniously killed each year since 1980, according to FBI data. In each of the past three years, the number of fatal attacks on police has been below average. 2013 saw a historic low, and 2015 is now tied with 2008 for the second-lowest total in recent history.
Widening the historical scope, though, it becomes clearer that policing is most likely not as dangerous now as it used to be. Compare current numbers to the 1970s, when gun-related police deaths were about six times higher than they are today. Or consider the Prohibition era, which saw police deaths involving firearms at rates 14 to 17 times higher than the present day.
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