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This morning brought the sad news that a Deputy US Marshall was murdered in the line of duty during a gun fight in Southeastern Georgia. Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers was shot and killed while attempting to apprehend a suspect wanted for the attempted murder of police officers in South Carolina.
Carothers’ death marks the 10th intentional killing (you might say “murder”) of a law enforcement officer in the United States in the Month of November this year. Nine of the 10 have been shot, while the 10th, a young Salt Lake City area officer, was intentionally run over during a pursuit. This already makes the bloodiest month of Thanksgiving for American cops since 1988 (page 24 of this link), when 11 officers were slain, and it is barely half over.
Sadly, this is not, by all evidence, an anomaly. In October nine officers were murdered on duty, including eight shot and a veteran Detroit officer who was run over. That marked the bloodiest October for law enforcement since 1999, a number that has only been eclipsed twice in 30 years. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 57 officers shot to death this year, a 68% spike over 2015. Sixteen of those slayings were in mass, targeted killings of officers.
For comparison, the last 20 years, there have only been five other months with 10 or more officers killed (not counting 9/11). One of them was May of 2015, and one was this past July when the Dallas and Baton Rouge massacres pushed the count to 12, tying a 30-year record.
With Carothers’ death comes an indisputable and bloody pause in non-war on cops. What non-war on cops? Well, every anti-police activist and author has been quite insistent that there is no war on cops. Days after the massacre of Dallas and Baton Rouge killings, Reason Magazine went on a diatribe about the non-war on cops. Predictably, self-annointed police expert Radley Balko also proclaimed “there is no war on cops” last year. A cursory review of his Twitter feed and Washington Post archive reveals no mention of any recent police officer deaths, aside from the Dallas Massacre in July.
Days before that tragedy, Balko (who has no policing experience) opined that the shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers was unnecessary because a man “who has a gun in his pocket is not a threat, particularly if he isn’t reaching for it.” Obviously Balko is unfamiliar with the case of Albuquerque Police Officer Daniel Webster. As the video of Webster’s murder last year demonstrates, Balko has no idea what he’s talking about. Which is interesting, since Albuquerque has been mentioned by Balko 38 times in the last three years, but not once in reference to Webster.
Balko and the Reason crowd will tell you that there is no war on cops because policing is safer than it has been in decades. In some respects, that is true. Evolutions in tactics, technology and equipment have cut deaths of police officers by about half in the last 30 years. The number of officers shot to death has plunged from over 100 as recently as 1980 to just 39 last year.
But there is something rather unique about this accomplishment. The results of improved safety practices have resulted in police work being deemed not truly dangerous by anti-police activists such as Balko. They won’t come out and say it’s not dangerous. They’ll even pay it lip service. But what they will do is demand a rollback of the equipment and tactics that have reduced the effects of the dangerous situations cops face. No one would think to say “firemen aren’t getting burned as often as the 1980s, they oughtta take those jackets off.” Yet, that is exactly the attitude of many police reformers.
Of course, cops are not the only ones paying the price for the non-war on cops. The city of Chicago yesterday recorded its 700th homicide of the year, a spike of more than 50 percent over the 448 Chicagoans killed at this time last year. Despite the activists obsession with reforming the “violent” Chicago Police Department, less than one percent of those homicides were by the police, almost all of them unquestionably justified.
The last time Chicago saw more than 700 murders in a year was 1998, a the city exited a decade of enduring 700-900 murders per year.
Let us hope that this is a tragic blip for both cops and citizens alike, and not a return to bloody and sad days of decades past.