Cops And The Dangerous Job
Jan. 19, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — They brought it on themselves, by constantly hyping what a dangerous job it is. The problem is it doesn’t make the top ten. And if you really want to get into the weeds, of the 83 police officers who died in the line of duty in 2015, 19 died in automobile collisions, 13 of heart attacks and 3 of 9/11-related illness.
That cops aren’t dying isn’t merely fortuitous. It’s the First Rule of Policing in action, that police officers will not suffer the risk of harm if it can be avoided. If that means shoot first and often, even before there is any basis to believe an actual threat to their safety exists, and they kill an unarmed person who poses no real threat because they feared the possibility of harm, so be it. Better innocent people be killed than a cop be harmed.
So yes, they brought it on themselves that at any possible opportunity, someone is going to point out that being a cop just isn’t all that dangerous. Certainly nowhere near as dangerous as cops want people to believe.
Yet, this fact is very different from a point that is true. As Ken Womble explains:
And it is an inherently dangerous job. I have been guilty of using the “logging is more dangerous than policing” stat. It is true, but it misses a vital point. Loggers are not injured or killed because some random tree pulled out a gun and shot them. It matters. Every time a logger dies, it is a tragic accident. You can’t say that about police. Police probably die by murder more per capita than any other profession.
Being an “inherently dangerous job” is not at all the same as being one of the most dangerous jobs. The compulsive need of some to point to loggers and scream, “see?!? Logging is more dangerous, and you don’t see them shooting unarmed people,” missed the point. This is an entirely different concept, and it’s time to stop the foolish conflation of the two.
The job of police officer includes facing people who commit crimes, are violent, are inclined to do harm. The job of logger, though far more dangerous in fact, does not demand that loggers stare down armed trees.
As Greg Prickett described, a police officer is the only occupation whose job it is to drive to the sound of gunfire.
Sometimes we focus so much on these bad officers that we forget the good officers. Most officers fit into this category. These officers run to the sound of gunfire, go into dangerous buildings, and put themselves in between the general public and evil. They do so willingly.
Some times you get there, sometimes you don’t. But every single time you go. It doesn’t matter what you think about the call, someone needs help, so you go.
To the extent there’s an issue to be raised with Greg’s characterization, it’s that this is the way police should do their job, but not the way they always do. This is the superficial good cop/bad cop distinction, and that cops don’t always fulfill their mission turns people cynical. On a deeper level, one might question whether they run toward danger, but then allow fear and the First Rule to compel them to shoot the first guy they see rather than risk harm.
But the point remains that danger is part of the police officers’ job description, and giving credit to the police with the recognition that they engage in many thousands of interactions every day that don’t result in wrongdoing, abuse or anyone being harmed, it can’t be reasonably said that they aren’t doing their jobs.
And that is the point. It’s not hard to blame a cop for not wanting to end his shift in a body bag. Anyone who would suggest that a cop has a duty to take a bullet is nuts. No one wants to die on the job. Then again, why anyone would want to be a logger or drive a taxi is fairly hard to explain.
There is much to criticize and question about the faithful performance of duty by police officers, and whether they are too quick to shoot, too happy to sacrifice your life for theirs. These are not only fair questions, but questions that should be asked. And included is the skepticism raised by invoking the “dangerous job” trope to justify why their lives should matter more than anyone else’s. Of course their lives matter. So does everyone else’s life. Just as much.
But it does not help to dismiss the fact that the job of a police officer, at least when done properly, includes inherent danger. We want them to run toward the sound of gunfire. We want them to be brave and willing to face potential harm, even if they don’t ultimately get harmed all that often. That’s a part of the job, and we want that to be the case.
While the job of cop may not be anywhere near as dangerous as they want us to believe, so we will adore and appreciate their bravery, and give them greater latitude to protect themselves than the facts warrant, the excesses of one claim should not diminish the truth of another.
It’s a dangerous job. It’s a job where danger is an inherent part of the description. These are distinct concepts, and we need to stop the crazy conflation so we can address what they do wrong with greater accuracy and truthfulness than they do by appealing to our emotions with a lie.