Law enforcement agents are being more heavily scrutinized now than they have been in the past. This is a much needed trend since law enforcers have been acting (and still continue to act) with very little accountability. In addition to raising awareness of the dangers created by allowing law enforcers to act without accountability this trend has also given rise to two extremes. One extreme wants to see every law enforcer gunned down in the streets. The other extreme wants everybody to get down on their hands and knees to lick the boots of every law enforcer. While most people are asking what can be done to hold law enforcers accountable for their actions the two extremes are embroiled in a battle of rhetoric.
Neocons tend to lean towards the boot licker extreme. Scott Walker is a classic example of this. To prove his piety he typed an article claiming that law enforcers today are being targeted far more than law enforcers were when he was growing up. Because he’s running for president (at least I think he is, I can’t be bothered to remember all of the completely irrelevant Republican candidates) he had to blame Obama but even setting that point aside his claims are bullshit:
Walker was born in 1967. In a blog post a few months ago, my former intern Dan Wang looked at the fatality and homicide figures for police going back to the 1960s. Here are a few notable numbers he found:
- “More officers were feloniously killed in the 11 years between 1970 and 1980 (1228 deaths) than in the 21 years between 1993 and 2013 (1182 deaths).” Walker would have been 3 in 1970 and 13 in 1980.
- Between 1971 and 1975, when Walker would have been between age 4 and 8, an average of 125 police officers were feloniously killed per year. Between 2006 and 2010, the average was 50. In 2013, just 27 officers were feloniously killed. In 2014, it was 51. So far this year, the number of cops killed with firearms is down 16 percent from last year. Two of those officers were killed by other cops.
- If you look at the rate at which cops are killed, the numbers are even more dramatic. There are quite a bit more police officers today than there were in the 1970s. So in 1975, for example, when Walker was 8, there were about 411,000 cops on the street, and 129 police officers were feloniously killed. That’s a rate of 31.38 murders per 100,000 officers. In 2013, the rate was about 5. Last year it was higher at 9.4, but that still means the rate was about 3.5 times higher than when Walker was growing up.*
- To put those rates into perspective, consider the death rate for fishermen, the most dangerous job in America: 131 deaths per 100,000. Even if you factor in traffic fatalities and other accidents, policing isn’t among the 10 most dangerous jobs in America. Another way to look at these figures: The murder rate for police officers is about the same of the overall murder rate in cities such as Bakersfield, Calif.; Louisville; and Omaha.
The rate of assaults on police officers has been falling, too. So you can’t argue that cops are safer solely because they’re killing more criminals, or because they have better equipment (though there’s evidence that the latter has helped). People are just less likely to attack police today than they’ve been in the past. And that’s despite the increased public scrutiny.
Even with the much deserved increase in scrutiny being a police officer today isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in decades past. In fact law enforcement isn’t even in the top 10 list of deadliest jobs. You’re more at risk being being an aircraft pilot than you are being a cop.
As an anarchist I don’t believe the State is a legitimate entity. Because of that I don’t believe the State has any business involving itself in law enforcement. I believe government law enforcement agencies; be they federal, state, or local; should be disbanded and replaced with market solutions. With that said, I don’t agree that police officers should be gunned down in cold blood. Many law enforcers should be charged with the crimes they’ve committed and forced to pay restitution. Some officers are almost certainly deserving of being declared outlaws. In other words justice, real justice, should be served. Murdering officers ensures justice won’t be served.
Licking their boots also ensures justice won’t be served. So long as a handful of people are given authority over everybody else, a concept I hope to see abolished someday, that handful should be scrutinized with extreme prejudice. Every action they take should be analyzed under a public microscope. Nothing they do in their official capacity should be private. Boot lickers whine that such transparency makes law enforcers’ jobs harder. Good! Their job should be hard. The second wielding authority becomes easy it gets abused. Justice can only be served if those tasked with providing it are subject to oversight.
Law enforcers have it too easy today. That needs to change. But gunning them down in cold blood isn’t the answer.