It’s been a pretty awful week in the world. There’s a couple of news stories that caught my eye that I felt worth sharing.
The War on Cops
From The Washington Post: a well-sourced, data-driven article pointing out that there’s no war on cops.
Violence against police is reprehensible and generally makes me ill. That’s a personal thing, as I grew up in a rural area where two of my uncles were cops, both of whom were shot at, one was stabbed (thankfully stopped by his vest), and they absolutely put their lives on the line. My cousin is in the police academy. One of my groomsmen’s brother is a cop in my hometown. 95% of cops are fantastic people who really are just trying to do the right thing and keep people safe.
5% of cops are assholes on power trips. It’s like any job, honestly. There are people who are just dicks. Or maybe they’re just dicks on bad days. We’ve all been there.
But we don’t have guns, the ability to put people in jail, or otherwise ruin people’s lives.
Even saying all that, according to the mainstream media, cops have a reason to be on edge. They’re being attacked on all sides.
Except it’s not true.
All of this fact-free fearmongering is having an effect. A Rasmussen poll taken last week found that 58 percent of respondents now believe there is now a “war on police.” Just 27 percent disagreed.
So let’s go through the numbers. Again. So far, 2015 is on pace to see 35 felonious killings of police officers. If that pace holds, this year would end with the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades.
Maybe it’s true that violence against cops for being cops is on the rise, and we’re just seeing the result of better health care and equipment? As the article points out later, assaults against police are also basically at an all time low.
The crux of it all:
Any murder of a police officer is a tragedy. (As is any murder of a non-police officer.) But media outlets, politicians, and police advocates do real damage when they push this false narrative about a rising threat to law enforcement. First, this sort of propaganda weights the public debate and discourse. When there’s a fictional “war on cops” blaring in the background, it becomes much more difficult to have an honest discussion about police cameras, police militarization, use of lethal force policies, police discipline, police transparency, training, police accountability, and a host of other issues. Of course, that’s precisely the point.
But there’s also a much more pernicious effect of exaggerating the threats faced by law enforcement. When cops are constantly told that they’re under constant fire, or that every interaction with a citizen could be their last, or that they’re fortunate each time they come home from the job in one piece, it’s absolute poison for police-community relations. That kind of reminder on a regular basis would put anyone on edge. We’re putting police officers in a perpetually combative mindset that psychologically isolates them from the communities they serve. Incessantly telling cops that they’re under fire can condition them to see the people with whom they interact not as citizens with rights, but as potential threats. That not only means more animosity, anger and confrontation, it can also be a barrier to building relationships with people in the community — the sorts of relationships that help police officers solve crimes and keep communities safe
Read the whole article.
If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know I went to Virginia Tech. I don’t have a particularly fond view of people who believe that the solution to guns is more guns. I grew up with guns. I’ve shot guns. It’s fun. Much of my family hunts in the fall/winter. I don’t hate guns.
I hate that we have so many guns. I hate that it’s so easy to get them. I hate that we can’t even have a discussion about some way of managing our gun problem without folks talking about taking up arms to defend their constitutional rights.
(Which, by the way, to those of you who react that way: fuck you. Fuck you for not even having the decency to have a discussion about things without resorting to being a complete, childish prick.)
That has all lead to the new, empowered by being on his victory tour, President Obama laying out a challenge:
Have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports
So Vox (and others) did. Here’s the data from Vox.
It’s exactly what you’d expect.
More than 10,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence. By contrast, so few Americans have been killed by terrorist attacks since 9/11 that when you chart the two together, the terrorism death count approximates zero for every year except 2001. This comparison, if anything, understates the gap: Far more Americans die every year from (easily preventable) gun suicides than gun homicides.
We spent over a trillion dollars, and passed countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
How can that be?