Policing today has become safer, with a 75 percent drop in police officer line-of-duty deaths since 1970, according to a study published in the Journal of Criminal & Public Policy.
The study also disproves the “war on cops” theory, conjured up following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson in August 2014.
Researchers have compiled one of the most comprehensive assessments of the “dangerousness” of policing to date, which provides important historical context pertaining to dialogue in recent years about a perceived “war on cops.”
Researchers from Arizona State University, the University of Texas at El Paso and Florida Atlantic University discovered that the hazards of policing has dropped 75 percent since 1970 despite increases in reported violent crimes.
“On average, there were slightly more than 1.6 fewer felonious police officer deaths per month after Michael Brown’s death in August 2014 when compared with pre-August 2014,” professor Lisa Dario, who works at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry.
“This result directly contradicts the hypothesized war on cops, in which an increase in felonious killings after August 2014 is predicted. Our results show the opposite. In the context of nearly 50-year monthly trends, our results show a statistically significant decline in felonious killings of police after Michael Brown’s death.”
Results of the study also showed that felonious deaths of officers dropped by 80 percent since 1970.
There was one anomaly in 2001, but that was due to the 9/11 terrorist attack, which killed 70 officers in the line of duty.
The rate of non-felonious officer deaths has declined by 69 percent, according to the study.
Additionally, the gap between non-felonious deaths and felonious deaths closed over time: officer deaths peaked during 1874 with 272 deaths.
In 2016, there were 134 officers killed on-duty.
Even though violent crime increased significantly from 1970 through the 1990s, it did not play a role in officer deaths, which significantly declined.
“To put this in simple terms, if violent crime is a proxy measure of the dangerousness of the environment in which police work, it does not seem to correlate well with actual dangerousness of the profession measured as officer deaths at the national level,” Dario explained.
Researchers attribute some of the decline in deaths to the increased use of body armor, advances in trauma care, enhanced training and technological advances have likely played a role, researchers say.
Researchers also discovered that deaths resulting from gunfire has significantly declined over time.
Deaths resulting from vehicular assaults or officers being struck by drunk drivers has doubled, according to the study.
To conduct the study, researchers used the Officer Down Memorial Page, which documents all officers killed in the line of duty, except for suicides (which was not part of this study).
Causes of death were attributed to accidents, felonious attacks and other non-felonious incidents like heart attacks or work-related illnesses.
The Officer Down Memorial Page reports that on-duty deaths in 2017 were at the lowest point since 1958, which also contradicts the so-called war on cops theory.
“In every given year, about 10 percent of police officers are assaulted. Regardless of how the death occurs, the consequences of officer line-of-duty deaths are tragic and multi-faceted, affecting officers’ families, coworkers, the agency, the community and the entire profession,” Professor Dario said.
“Through our study findings, we can paint a clear picture of the declines in dangerousness over time, as well as the extraordinary stability in key features of officer line-of-duty deaths during the last 50 years or so.”
Watch a video published by the Florida Atlantic University News Desk above.
Read the by Michael D. White, Lisa M. Dario and John A. Shjarback below.