A Premature Alarm Regarding Police Fatality Rates

Posted: January 1st, 2011 by Militant Libertarian

by David, Injustice Everywhere

The big law enforcement related news piece dominating the media today comes courtesy of a press release from the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund(LEOMF) insisting that an apparent increase in law enforcement officer deaths in 2010 in comparison to 2009?s record low number of officer deaths should be alarming and attributes the rise to a number of factors including reduced funding for law enforcement officers and increasingly violent criminals.

While we definitely do find it alarming when any law enforcement officer loses his or her life in an act of violence, we do feel it necessary to examine these numbers in order to put them into perspective, especially since the LEOMF and a professor from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice cited police accountability projects such as ours here at the NPMSRP as the reason for the rise in police officer deaths they claim they were seeing around mid-year.

Interestingly, in response to those wild allegations, we examined the alarming trend cited by the LEOMF in July and did some statistical analysis to determine what the actual homicide rate was for law enforcement officers and, surprisingly, our projected rate of officers who died in acts of homicidal violence ended up being pretty accurate.

Back then we determined that:

…in 2009 there were 127 line of duty deaths, of which, 57 of those fatalities could be attributed to an act of violence that specifically targeted a police officer whether by firearms, intentional vehicular assault, or assault.

So far in 2010, there have been 98 line of duty deaths, of which, 28 are attributed to an intentional act of violence against a police officer.

So, in 2009 the homicidal fatality rate for law enforcement officers was an estimated 8.14 deaths per 100,000 law enforcement officers. Currently the homicidal fatality rate is at 4.16 per 100,000 and, if projected to the end of year at the current rate, that homicidal fatality rate for 2010 would potentially be 8.31 per 100,000 law enforcement officers… a 0.17 per 100,000 increase or, roughly, a 2.1% increase.

The actual numbers cited by the LEOMF for 2010 are that 160 officers died and that 59 of those law enforcement officers died due to apparent homicidal causes for this year. This would translate to a homicide rate of 8.35 officers per 100,000 based on an estimated employment rate of 706,886 sworn law enforcement officers in the US per the latest FBI-DOJ UCR numbers released earlier this year.

So, the homicidal death rate for law enforcement officers in 2009 was 8.14 per 100,000 and the 2010 homicidal fatality rate was 8.35 per 100,000 which translates to a 2.5% increase in the homicide rate for police officers. If we use the numbers according to LEOMF sources in that there are 800,000 active sworn officers in the US, then the homicide rate drops to 7.38 per 100,000 but that 800,000 number cited does not seem to reflect a general decline in law enforcement employment rates that we’ve seen lately due to the declining economy.

So, in conclusion, yes, there has been an increase in deaths by homicidal violence for police officers in 2010 and any increase should be examined rationally to determine if there are prudent ways to address preventable deaths. But the increase seen for 2010 is not as alarming as we are told it should be and definitely not extensive enough from which one could derive any conclusive causative effect, such as blaming it on efforts to increase accountability and transparency within law enforcement agencies in the US as was done earlier this year.

While we do not track total officer-related fatalities, we do track fatalities associated with allegations of police misconduct or use of excessive force.

Per our latest projected 2010 statistical data we determined that, in comparison with the stated law enforcement homicidal death rate of 8.35 per 100,000, that the fatal use of excessive force rate for law enforcement in 2010 was 18.3 per 100,000 and the rate of officers officially charged with murder was 5.3 per 100,000 (compared to an estimated 4.9 per 100,000 murder rate by officers in 2009) as opposed to the murder rate for the general public which was 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 per the latest UCR data available from the FBI DOJ.

However, these are just projections from our Q3 statistical data and our full 2010 statistical report won’t be released until sometime in mid to late January of 2011.


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