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“How Dangerous Is Police Work?”: Being A Policeman Is One Of The Safer Jobs You Can Have

After the senseless death and tragic funerals of two young New York City policeman, cops have got to be thinking about assassination. “I want to go home to my wife and kids,” said a cop to the New York Post.” I am concerned about my safety.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press,” NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton said that cops across the country “feel under attack”

They have good reason to worry. Getting killed is a hazard in many occupations, but there is one glaring difference between death risks of law enforcement officers and those of other dangerous occupations: only police officers face the threat of murder as a part of their job. No one is out trying to kill fisherman or loggers or garbage collectors.

A cop on the street endures daily contact with drunks, the mentally disabled and violent criminals. They endure life-and-death situations on a daily basis.

However, the misconception that police work is dangerous, propagated by the media and police unions, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy— especially, if police believe that they are going into deadly battle when they head out on patrol. They are likely to be nervous and trigger-happy and might affect their decision-making in a stressful situation.

The fact is: being a policeman is one of the safer jobs you can have, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor.

In five years, 2008 to 2012, only one policeman was killed by a firearm in the line of duty in New York City. Police officers are many times more likely to commit suicide than to be killed by a criminal; nine NYC policemen attempted to take their own lives in 2012, alone. Eight succeeded. In 2013, eight NYPD officers attempted suicide, while six succeeded. If police want to protect themselves, a wise move might be to invest in psychiatric counseling, rather than increased firepower.

2013 had the fewest police deaths by firearms since 1887 nationwide.

The national figures vary widely from year to year. In 2014, police deaths in the line of duty, including heart attacks, spiked upward from 100 in 2013, to 126 in 2014.

But the trend has been clearly downward in the last 40 years. Police work is getting progressively safer compared with historical averages:

  • From 1970 to 1980 police deaths averaged 231 per year.
  • 1980 to 1989: police deaths averaged 190.7
  • 1990 to 1999: police deaths averaged 161.5
  • 2000 to 2009: police deaths averaged 165
  • 2013 to 2014: police deaths averaged 113.

Statistics are drawn from the police friendly National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund which also show that felony killings of police dropped by 50 percent from 1992 to 2013 from 10,000 to 5,000 annually per 100,000 residents.

Statistics are notably unreliable both from the federal government and from law enforcement friendly sites. The best statistics come from the New York City Police Firearms Discharge Reports.

The Report for 2013 noted the following:

—- In 1971, 12 officers were killed by other persons and police shot and killed 93 subjects.

—- In 2013, no officers were shot and killed and police killed 8 subjects.

To put the risk of policing in perspective: fisherman and loggers are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer, a farmer is 2 times more likely to die on the job, according to national figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A logging worker is eight times more likely than a police officer to die on the job, and a garbage man is three times more likely to die while working.

The 10 Deadliest Jobs: Deaths per 100,000

  1. Logging workers: 128.8
  2. Fishers and related fishing workers: 117
  3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers: 53.4
  4. Roofers: 40.5
  5. Structural iron and steel workers: 37
  6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors: 27.1
  7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers: 23
  8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers: 22.1
  9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers: 21.3
  10. Construction laborers: 17.4

Out of approximately one million police and law enforcement personnel, with 126 deaths per year, the death rate for police is 12.6 per hundred thousand.

The most dangerous job in the U.S. is being president. Eight out of 44 presidents died in office, about 18 percent. Four were assassinated, just over 9 percent.

Most policemen killed on the job die in accidents (mostly auto), not from firearm assault, according to the FBI.

According to FBI figures (which are slightly different than other tabulations), 14 of the 76 police deaths in 2013, nation-wide, were due to auto accidents —- when the officer wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Tragic for sure.

Of the 76 cops who died in the line of duty in 2013, 18 of them were from gunfire. The rest were traffic fatalities or slips and falls.

Assailants used personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.) in 80.2 percent of the incidents, firearms in 4.3 percent of incidents, and knives or other cutting instruments in 1.7 percent of the incidents.

About 40 percent of officers (30) who die in the line of duty are homicides, which would give police a murder rate of 3 per 100,000, compared with the average national murder rate for the general population of 5.6 per 100,000.

The average citizen of Chicago had a murder risk of 18.5 in 2012, more than three times the murder risk of policeman. Police killings are almost always classified as line-of-duty.

In reality, police don’t draw or fire their guns very much.

Many NYC cops never draw their weapons in their whole career. In New York City, only one cop in 755 fired his or her gun at a suspect intentionally in 2012. In 2013, only one of 850 officers fired a weapon at a suspect intentionally.

In 2012, 80.2 percent of officers who were assaulted in the line of duty were attacked with personal weapons (e.g., hands, fists, or feet).

4.3 percent of the officers were assaulted with firearms.

The reason a policeman’s job is getting safer is simple. There has been a dramatic drop in crime in the last two decades. Less crime means safer working conditions for the people who try to stop it.

The act of policing needs to be safer. Use body cameras. Cut down on the number of traffic accidents. Mandate the use of seat belts on duty. Enforce better and more professional training to avoid dangerous situations, and offer better counseling to deal with the stress of the job.

Attacks on police are a great media story, but if the false narrative — that policing is getting more dangerous — continues to spread it will have a significant effect on how police do their jobs —- making them more fearful than they already are, with increasingly deadly results for the general public.


By: Blake Fleetwood, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Crime Rates, Dangerous Occupations, NYPD | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“MLK’s Prophetic Call For Economic Justice”: This Country Has Socialism For The Rich, Rugged Individualism For The Poor

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s economic message was fiery and radical. To our society’s great shame, it has also proved timeless.

As we celebrate King’s great achievement and sacrifice, it is wrong to round off the sharp edges of his legacy. He saw inequality as a fundamental and tragic flaw in this society, and he made clear in the weeks leading up to his assassination that economic issues were becoming the central focus of his advocacy.

Nearly five decades later, King’s words on the subject still ring true. On March 10, 1968, just weeks before his death, he spoke to a union group in New York about what he called “the other America.” He was preparing to launch a Poor People’s Campaign whose premise was that issues of jobs and issues of justice were inextricably intertwined.

“One America is flowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality,” King said. “That America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. . . . But as we assemble here tonight, I’m sure that each of us is painfully aware of the fact that there is another America, and that other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair.”

Those who lived in the other America, King said, were plagued by “inadequate, substandard and often dilapidated housing conditions,” by “substandard, inferior, quality-less schools,” by having to choose between unemployment and low-wage jobs that didn’t even pay enough to put food on the table.

The problem was structural, King said: “This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”

Eight days later, speaking in Memphis, King continued the theme. “Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day?” he asked striking sanitation workers. “And they are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen, and it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.”

King explained the shift in his focus: “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”

Obviously, much has changed for African Americans since that time; anyone who says otherwise is plainly wrong. There is no longer any question of who gets served at lunch counters. Mississippi, where African Americans were once disenfranchised at the barrel of a gun, has more black elected officials than any other state. An African American family lives in the White House.

But what King saw in 1968 — and what we all should recognize today — is that it is useless to try to address race without also taking on the larger issue of inequality. He was planning a poor people’s march on Washington that would include not only African Americans but also Latinos, Native Americans and poor Appalachian whites. He envisioned a rainbow of the dispossessed, assembled to demand not just an end to discrimination but a change in the way the economy doles out its spoils.

King did not live to lead that demonstration, which ended up becoming the “Resurrection City” tent encampment on the Mall. Protesters never won passage of the “economic bill of rights” they had sought.

Today, our society is much more affluent overall — and much more unequal. Since King’s death, the share of total U.S. income earned by the top 1 percent has more than doubled. Studies indicate there is less economic mobility in the United States than in most other developed countries. The American dream is in danger of becoming a distant memory.

This column is not about policy prescriptions or partisan politics. King was a prophet. His role was to see clearly what others could not or would not recognize, and to challenge our consciences.

Paying homage to King as one of our nation’s greatest leaders means remembering not just his soaring oratory about racial justice but his pointed words about economic justice as well. Inequality, he told us, threatens the well-being of the nation. Extending a hand to those in need makes us stronger.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 16, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Economic Inequality, Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Pressing Public Health Problem”: The Study That Gun-Rights Activists Keep Citing But Completely Misunderstand

Few issues divide people like guns.

Just consider the starkly split response to our piece this week about how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still had not resumed researching gun violence, two years after President Obama ordered the agency to do so.

Gun rights supporters argue the CDC shouldn’t get involved. The agency should stick to controlling and preventing disease, they say.

There’s also a healthy dose of distrust of any research the CDC might conduct – which is why the agency essentially stopped studying the issue in 1996 after the NRA accused the CDC of advocating for gun control. The resulting research ban caused a steep decline in firearms studies nationwide. As a University of Pennsylvania criminology professor explained it, “I see no upside to ignorance.”

But even that is a contentious point. So the recent article on the CDC’s continued failure to kick-start gun studies was met by wildly different responses.

Here’s Everytown for Gun Safety, Michael Bloomberg’s advocacy group.:

The CDC still isn’t researching gun violence, despite the ban being lifted two years ago — Everytown (@Everytown) January 15, 2015

And the response is from Dana Loesch, a conservative talk show host and author of “Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America”:

 @Everytown Seriously? Yes they did. And it wasn’t the outcome you wanted: #gunsense #MomsDemand2A — Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) January 15, 2015

Loesch’s point was echoed by many: The CDC studied gun violence in 2013, after Obama’s order, and found a wealth of facts that didn’t fit the narrative that guns are dangerous. And that’s why the study didn’t receive the attention it deserved.

An article in the New American Magazine summarized the study: “If the president was looking to the CDC report for support on how to reduce the threat of firearm-related violence through legislation restricting the rights of American citizens, he was sorely disappointed. Perhaps that’s why so few of the media have publicized the report.”

Game over, some activists declared:

@DLoesch @Everytown They need to just suck it! — Jodee (@jodeenicks) January 15, 2015

So what does the study say?

It’s hefty, running 121 pages. The title is “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.” The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and National Research Council published it in 2013.

And the study clearly makes the case for why more gun-violence research is needed.

The CDC requested the study to identify research goals after Obama issued his January 2012 executive order. The National Academies’s study authors clearly see gun violence as a problem worth examining:  “By their sheer magnitude, injuries and deaths involving firearms constitute a pressing public health problem.”

The authors suggested focusing on five areas: the characteristics of firearm violence, risk and protective factors, interventions and strategies, gun safety technology and the influence of video games and other media. The document is peppered with examples of how little we know about the causes and consequences of gun violence — no doubt the result of an 18-year-old CDC research ban.

But gun-rights supporters zeroed on in a few statements to make their case. One related to the defensive use of guns. The New American Magazine article noted that “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.”

So it would appear the “good use” of guns outweighs the “bad use.” That may be true, except the study says all of those statistics are in dispute — creating, in the study authors’ eyes, a research imperative.

The study (available as a PDF) calls the defensive use of guns by crime victims “a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed.” While it might be as high as 3 million defensive uses of guns each year, some scholars point to the much lower estimate of 108,000 times a year. “The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field,” the study notes.

The authors also say gun ownership might be good for defensive uses, but that benefit could be canceled out by the risk of suicide or homicide that comes with gun ownership. The depth of the relationship is unknown “and this is a sufficiently important question that it merits additional, careful exploration.”

Another point gun-rights activists make about the National Academies’s report is that “the key finding the president was no doubt seeking — that more laws would result in less crime — was missing.”

And they’re right. The key finding is missing. But that’s because we don’t know the answer — one way or the other.

That, some would say, is exactly why the CDC needs to conduct research.


By: Todd C. Frankel, The Wonk Blog, The Washington Post, January 16, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Firearms Research, Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Disingenuous Waste Of Everyone’s Time”: Tea Party’s Constitution Fraud; Why The Movement’s “Devotion” Is A Situational Sham

I’m hardly the first to make this point, but because it’s such a popular rhetorical tactic in our politics, it bears repeating: Policy arguments that focus on form and process instead of substance are, with notably rare exceptions, a disingenuous waste of everyone’s time.

For example: Because Republican politicians have so often worked themselves into high dudgeon over the way the Affordable Care Act cleared the U.S. Senate, a casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that opposition to reconciliation is a bedrock principle of modern-day conservatism. It is not. But arguing that the other side isn’t playing by the rules is sometimes easier, politically, than engaging in an actual policy debate — especially if your preferred policy is to allow insurers to deny sick children coverage and to renege on guaranteed healthcare for millions.

Confusing the issue is even more of an imperative if your chosen policy on a hot-button issue like immigration is to either maintain an unpopular status quo or to deport more than 11 million. And that, essentially, is the position congressional Republicans find themselves in right now, which was made crystal clear in the House on Wednesday, when the vast majority of GOPers voted to repeal President Obama’s recent unilateral moves to reduce undocumented immigrant deportations. It wasn’t much of a surprise, then, to see Speaker John Boehner try to frame the vote as having little to do with immigration policy per se, and everything to do with reversing an “executive overreach [that] is an affront to the rule of law” and a threat to the Constitution.

That said, the vote happened less than 48 hours ago. So, yes, I am a bit taken aback by a report from Politico that shows the Republicans’ facade of Constitution-fetishism and fealty to tradition has already crumbled. But that’s the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from the article, which offers a preview of the agenda House Tea Partyers plan to unveil to their fellow Republicans during a GOP-only retreat. It’s an agenda that, in two key respects, has the ultimate goal of amending the Constitution.

One of the proposed amendments, Politico reports, would force the federal government to balance the budget, something conservatives have been trying, to no avail, to pass for decades. It’s a terrible idea, but it’s also pretty ho-hum at this point, too. However, their other proposal for how to make a document they usually speak of as nearly biblical in its sanctity even better is newer — and if it were to be accepted by anyone in the party outside its Tea Party fringe, it would represent a significant nativist shift on immigration from the GOP. It’s a proposal to tweak that pesky 14th Amendment in order to combat the phantom menace of “anchor babies” and end the long-standing U.S. practice of birthright citizenship. Needless to say, Steve King, the leader of what pro-immigration reform GOP aides derisively call the “boxcar crowd” (as in, they want to round the nation’s undocumented immigrants into boxcars for eventual deportation), is leading the charge.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of this ambitious plan to literally change the definition of who is and is not an American. But I don’t oppose it because I think the Constitution is sacrosanct or anything like that. (In fact, I’m sympathetic to those who argue that the Constitution could use a serious update.) Instead, the reason I dislike the Tea Party’s plan to amend some amendments is because I disagree with them on the substance. In my mind, the United States’ historically complicated but occasionally liberal approach to immigration is one of the strongest points in its favor; I think we need more immigration, not less. And I believe to change the Constitution so the definition of Americanness becomes more rooted in bloodlines and less rooted in simple geography — to, in effect, make it harder instead of easier to be an American — is the wrong thing to do, both symbolically and on the merits.

Admittedly, as a lefty, I don’t have to shoulder the burden of reconciling my policy preferences with my devotion to tradition and adhering to process for its own sake. The Tea Party and the GOP in general, on the other hand, are not quite as liberated. I seriously doubt that recognizing the blatant hypocrisy of deifying a centuries-old blueprint, while simultaneously urging it to undergo major revision, will disabuse these conservatives of their self-perception as the Constitution’s true friends. If that were to happen, if the right agreed to give up complaints about process arguments and simply argue for policy on its own terms, they’d likely find themselves frequently at a disadvantage. Because just like repealing Obamacare without replacing its most popular elements, booting millions of men, women and children out of the country is a political nonstarter.


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, January 16, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Chris Christie Counts On Public Amnesia”: As If No One Would Remember He killed An Earlier Federally Subsidized Project

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie endorsed a plan to expand his state’s rail capacity with a federally subsidized project when he ran for office, and then opposed it when he took office. Now he’s endorsed a rail-expansion plan once again. Here, Christie delivers his State of the State address on January 13, 2015.

In 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took over $3 billion in revenue earmarked for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and used it to plug a hole in his budget—leaving the people of his state and the region with no tunnel, and no money left for one in the future. Now Christie has endorsed a new report that includes a recommendation for expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York, as if no one would remember that he killed an earlier federally subsidized project that would have accomplished that purpose.

In the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect, I report the story of Christie’s 2010 decision and its disastrous consequences, particularly in the wake of the damage that Hurricane Sandy did to the two existing rail tunnels built over 100 years ago that are currently the chokepoint for rail transportation in the Northeast. Though Christie backed building a new rail tunnel on the campaign trail in 2009, he canceled the project after entering office, when it became clear that it would require him to raise New Jersey’s gas tax (the next-to-lowest in the country). Doing so carried risks of antagonizing local anti-tax groups and jeopardizing his national ambitions within the Republican Party.

Last May, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo convened a panel tasked with recommending how to improve the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state agency that controls river crossings, regional airports, and marine terminals. The move came amid a flurry of Port Authority political scandals. Though the two governors publicly endorsed the panel’s proposals, which were published in a 99-page report on December 27, they both vetoed bills their state legislatures had passed to reform the Port Authority, insisting that they would enact better measures on their own.

The panel’s report notes that cross-Hudson River travel has not kept pace with population growth and that passenger demand is projected to double by 2030. Accordingly, the panel recommended that the Port Authority lead a regional planning team in 2015 to explore, among other things, expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York.

This is all well and good, except that political leaders have known about these population projections and regional risks for over two decades.

As Christie gears up for a presidential run, the chances of his endorsing a tax increase to finance a new rail tunnel (and other infrastructure needs in his state) are vanishingly small. Catering to the anti-tax fervor in the Republican Party will have a big cost not only for the commuters in New Jersey but for the entire Northeast region.


By: Rachel M. Cohen, The American Prospect, January 14, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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