New York City is still on edge after two NYPD officers were killed assassination-style in their patrol car on Dec. 20. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NYPD union head Pat Lynch blamed current mayor Bill de Blasio for exciting anti-cop sentiment in Black Lives Matter protesters, even though the shooting had no connection to the protests.
While NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton didn't not join in blaming de Blasio, who is, after all, his boss, he did discuss the dangers of policing during his appearance on "Meet The Press" Dec. 28.
“Policing is always such a profession that is going to have potential danger," he said. "That is the reality of it. … The anger and the hatred and the violence directed against our police officers that every year takes more a hundred of their lives. So, I think we need to broaden the conversation to include the dangers being directed against them also.”
Well, Mr. Bratton misrepresented picture, according to The Washington Post. The FBI reports that an average of 114 officers die each year in what it breaks down as both accidents and a "felonious acts," or purposeful criminal acts against officers. Accidental acts include drowning, aircraft accidents, getting hit in the street while directing traffic and other non-criminal related acts while performing police duties. Felonious acts include hostage taking, responding to domestic disturbance calls, ambushes, and traffic pursuits.
The number of felonious deaths, which is included in that "hatred and the violence directed against our police officers that every year takes" statement Bratton made hasn't topped 100 since the 1980s. During a given year, non-accidental deaths of police officers range between 38 to 58 percent of deaths each year. The highest number of felonious deaths of police was 72 in 2011. Law enforcement fatalities have been on the decline since the 1970s, in part because of bullet proof-resistent vests, well-trained SWAT teams and stun guns that allow distance between officers and dangerious offenders that otherwise would require hand-to hand combat.
In 1973, 140 officers died as a result of felonious acts; in 2013, just 27 such deaths occured. Ambush attacks, the kind that took the lives of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn, account for 21.7 of felonious deaths from 2004 to 2013.
Here is another important number to consider during conversations of anti-police violence: white criminals are more likely to carry out acts of violence against police officers than black offenders, according to the Washington Post's review of FBI data.
Between 2004 to the end of 2013, 511 police officers were killed in felonious acts by 540 offenders. Of those offenders, 52 percent were white, and 43 percent were black. If we look at the racial breakdown of similar data over a 33 year period, the results are the same. From 1980 to 2013, 2,269 officers were killed in felonious incidents, and 2,896 offenders carred them out. Of the offenders, 52 percent were white, and 41 percent were black.
For context, Bratton used data from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s 2014 annual report, according to a spokesperson who declined to identify themselves to a Post reporter. Keep in mind that the memorial fund's fatality figures are consistently always higher the FBI numbers because it includes job-related illnesses such as heart attacks. According to the memorial fund, 126 cops died while on duty: 62 died as a result of felonious acts while the other half died in non-criminal incidents.
The problem with Bratton's "hate" argument, is that it's overblown, is used to justify ever more powerful weapons in police officer's hands, and indirectly contributes to a climate where police officers are all too often completely exonerated when they use excessive force—which they use, disproportionately against black Americans.