Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Law-Enforcement Officers Exhibit Less Malice and Fewer Major Errors than Other Professions

 

How many bad cops are there? What is the percentage? According to this: “In 2018, there were 686,665 full-time law enforcement officers employed in the United States.” What is the percentage of truly bad cops? How does that compare with the percentage of bad sports figures? How does that compare with the percentage of media figures who do not do their jobs or harass coworkers? How does that compare with the number and percentage of soi disant journalists who make up facts or interviews or get their data from kids’ science projects where the kids made up the numbers?

Let’s face it, if a law-enforcement officer does something bad, reporters will report on it, even if it does not involve the death of a black man. How many of these do we hear about in a year? A handful? Is it even that high? Or is that the number over several years where the stories have stuck with us and the stories told over and over and blown out of proportion? The Ferguson Unrest (as it is referred to in Wikipedia) was in 2014. How about the original “I can’t breathe!” Eric Garner who died while being arrested for selling loosies on the streets of New York City? That was 2011. We seem to be getting one of these major incidents about every three years. Whatever your profession is, can you say that you have one major incident every three years per 650,000 employees? Is your profession’s record that low? Does your profession have so few scandals? Medical doctors don’t. Priests don’t. Teachers don’t. Politicians sure as shootin’ don’t.

The truth is that incidents involving law enforcement officers are much higher than one every few years, but usually, there is no question that the officer needed to act. In a casual search, I found lots of numbers, but most were counting apples and oranges and grapes. One estimate is that close to a thousand people are killed per year in the US in justifiable homicides. Were those all by law-enforcement officers? Although it was on a page purporting to be about that, it was not clear. Still, that would mean that about one in three thousand of these incidents were not justifiable homicides based on what is protested and reported by the race mongers and “journalists.”

Can you imagine journalists getting things right that often? I was interviewed for a local paper, and they couldn’t even get my hometown right, despite the fact it’s a well-known city with famous characters named after it. Alright, I’ll admit that getting the name of a city wrong is not as bad as killing a guy who didn’t need to be killed. Not the same scale. On the other hand, that was not the only fact the reporter got wrong. Given the number of facts gotten wrong out of the total number of facts in the article, the journalist definitely loses by percentage overall. Not just by a little, but by orders of magnitude. And we all know that this one reporter is not exceptional. Everyone has seen an article where one is a subject matter expert and the reporter gets everything wrong. One thing that reporters should be a subject matter expert on is the English language, and they usually get that wrong, too.

Law-enforcement officers who are involved in unjustifiable homicides are few and far between. One big incident per three years? Maybe there are multiple cops involved, such as the four in this latest incident. So, maybe the number works out to a really bad cop per year. With journalism, it’s sort of the opposite. Good, honest reporters might come into the business at a rate of one every two or three years. The rest are just a bunch of hacks. Law enforcement officers are heavily screened before employment and heavily trained by most major departments. Journalists come out of our university system, unable to spell, and in most cases unable to read or write, either.

The truth is that I can’t find the numbers I want. All I have is a few figures and anecdotal evidence from what I hear reported. If any of you have solid figures, I would love to see them. But my impression is that law-enforcement officers tend to be much more professional, honest, and nonprejudicial and even-handed than any other profession. As they should be, given the power put into their hands.

Published in Policing
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  1. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    The problem is the cities that allow dangerous use-of-force procedures. Fix the cities and fix the problem. It should be noted that every police force agrees to work under those procedures, so they have to take a bit of the blame. 

    • #1
    • June 5, 2020, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    The problem is the cities that allow dangerous use-of-force procedures. Fix the cities and fix the problem. It should be noted that every police force agrees to work under those procedures, so they have to take a bit of the blame.

    From what @ambulancedriver said, it appears that the Minneapolis police were trained not to do what these officers did. That was one of my big questions after reading @josepluma‘s It’s Always Easier. . . post.

    That said, there may be some problems at that level, and they should be fixed. But use-of-force procedures also need to be balanced to ensure the officers are not habitually handcuffed from defending themselves.

    • #2
    • June 5, 2020, at 11:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    I don’t have comparative numbers involving other professions, but here are some figures from Heather MacDonald in the WSJ last Tuesday. I’m using her language (e.g., “shootings,” “killed,” “unarmed”)

    –Annual police-civilian contacts: 375 million

    –2019 fatal shootings by police: 1004 (includes those who were armed)

    –2019 African Americans killed by police: 235

    –2019 unarmed whites shot: 19

    –2019 unarmed African Americans shot: 9

    MacDonald notes that “unarmed” was broadly interpreted to include a victim who was driving at the time and had a handgun in the car.

    • #3
    • June 5, 2020, at 11:36 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    –Annual police-civilian contacts: 375 million

    –2019 fatal shootings by police: 1004 (includes those who were armed)

    That comes down to 0.0002677% of contacts.

    • #4
    • June 5, 2020, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    From what @ambulancedriver said, it appears that the Minneapolis police were trained not to do what these officers did. That was one of my big questions after reading @josepluma‘s It’s Always Easier. . . post.

    As I said elsewhere, it’s significant that Chauvin and accompanying officers must have been aware that they were being recorded. The front-facing video was apparently taken by a teen with a cellphone. It’s obvious when someone keeps a smartphone pointed at you for several minutes what that person is doing. 

    Thus, to believe these were crooked cops deliberately killing or endangering Floyd is to believe the Minneapolis government is so blatantly corrupt that four police officers feel confortable killing a man in broad daylight on video. Doubtful. 

    More likely, the officers were attempting to calm Floyd and recklessly endangered his life by forgetting or ignoring their training. That the other officers did not push Chauvin off of Floyd even in the end suggests that they did not realize he had become quiet because he was dying. 

    It’s sad. It’s infuriating. The officers are rightly being investigated and prosecuted. It is not, however, evidence of widespread abuse by police, nor of racism.

    • #5
    • June 5, 2020, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    It is not, however, evidence of widespread abuse by police, nor of racism.

    Exactly.

    • #6
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Hoyacon Member

    Deaths by “medical mistake”–Third leading cause of death.

    Now the narrative is that police shootings, etc. are really not “mistakes,” but, as is noted above, that’s very questionable.

    • #7
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Deaths by “medical mistake”–Third leading cause of death.

    Now the narrative is that police shootings, etc. are really not “mistakes,” but, as is noted above, that’s very questionable.

    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    • #8
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Hoyacon Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Deaths by “medical mistake”–Third leading cause of death.

    Now the narrative is that police shootings, etc. are really not “mistakes,” but, as is noted above, that’s very questionable.

    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    I was thinking about going there. Let’s think about the fallout from unethical behavior.

    • #9
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    We know politicians’ decisions were the indirect cause of thousands of deaths this year.

    • #10
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Ontheleftcoast Member

    In a casual search, I found lots of numbers, but most were counting apples and oranges and grapes. One estimate is that close to a thousand people are killed per year in the US in justifiable homicides. Were those all by law-enforcement officers? Although it was on a page purporting to be about that, it was not clear. 

    You’d think that the Bureau of Justice Statistics would make that information easy to find, wouldn’t you?

    I found this

    In this report. Obviously perceived excess use of force isn’t necessarily actual excess use of force.

    • #11
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:18 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. Bob Thompson Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Deaths by “medical mistake”–Third leading cause of death.

    Now the narrative is that police shootings, etc. are really not “mistakes,” but, as is noted above, that’s very questionable.

    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    I was thinking about going there. Let’s think about the fallout from unethical behavior.

    Now you’re talking. Aren’t almost all those people being investigated by John Durham law enforcement people? Lawyers? I don’t know about the intelligence agency types. But it is certainly true that there is something at the municipal law enforcement arena that needs fixing and it has to do with color. Senator Tim Scott’s story about being stopped in a vehicle seven times without probable cause since he has been a senator really impressed me. If we are going to claim there is no institutionalized racism in these departments, why are we still having those kinds of stops. I have thought from the first time Kaepernick kneeled at the National Anthem that his stated cause had merit but I will not agree to his method of protest, wrong venue. 

    I wish I had a better understanding of lawyers and how they are distributed politically and powerfully in our population. I think that is the source of most of our issues that fail to get resolved successfully and those powerful law firms just keep raking in the money. So that doesn’t condemn all lawyers but they get a big share of blame.

    • #12
    • June 5, 2020, at 12:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Mark Camp Member

    It’s high time attention was paid to the good job police are doing, relative to other professions. Multiple studies show that a poet was 3.7 times as likely as a police officer in the US to make a major error in 2017, the latest period for which we have data.

    For English Lit professionals, who ironically have a higher favorability than poets according to the consensus of pollsters, sadly the numbers are even worse: 4.1 times, with non-Hispanic English Lit professionals slightly more likely to make a major error, but somewhat less likely to make an oops; for boo-boos, both groups are statistically equal.

    To allow major errors to be compared between professions, experts have taken into account variations in tendencies to make specific categories of errors. For example, not surprisingly, police are significantly more likely to make a spelling error on a shift report, but less likely to overuse color imagery, compared to poets.

    • #13
    • June 5, 2020, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Bob Thompson Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    It’s high time attention was paid to the good job police are doing, relative to other professions.

    I agree. There is a thing between local police forces and minorities, especially blacks, that needs fixing but it’s not leading to many big mistakes but a lot of harassment and intimidation.

    So there’s that.

    On the other hand, @mookie‘s post,

    Has the Ruling Class Abandoned the Middle Class?

    we see the big issue facing the middle class that relates in a large part to law enforcement as well, led by the legal profession, i.e. lawyers.

     

    • #14
    • June 5, 2020, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Hoyacon Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    It’s high time attention was paid to the good job police are doing, relative to other professions. Multiple studies show that a poet was 3.7 times as likely as a police officer in the US to make a major error in 2017, the latest period for which we have data.

    For English Lit professionals, who ironically have a higher favorability than poets according to the consensus of pollsters, sadly the numbers are even worse: 4.1 times, with non-Hispanic English Lit professionals slightly more likely to make a major error, but somewhat less likely to make an oops; for boo-boos, both groups are statistically equal.

    To allow major errors to be compared between professions, experts have taken into account variations in tendencies to make specific categories of errors. For example, not surprisingly, police are significantly more likely to make a spelling error on a shift report, but less likely to overuse color imagery, compared to poets.

    But is it really fair to compare those who have to contend with qualitative metre and arcane rules of grammar to police, who only have to be concerned with life and death?

    • #15
    • June 5, 2020, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  16. Flicker Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    And the percentage that were justified.

    • #16
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Flicker Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    It’s high time attention was paid to the good job police are doing, relative to other professions. Multiple studies show that a poet was 3.7 times as likely as a police officer in the US to make a major error in 2017, the latest period for which we have data.

    For English Lit professionals, who ironically have a higher favorability than poets according to the consensus of pollsters, sadly the numbers are even worse: 4.1 times, with non-Hispanic English Lit professionals slightly more likely to make a major error, but somewhat less likely to make an oops; for boo-boos, both groups are statistically equal.

    To allow major errors to be compared between professions, experts have taken into account variations in tendencies to make specific categories of errors. For example, not surprisingly, police are significantly more likely to make a spelling error on a shift report, but less likely to overuse color imagery, compared to poets.

    Anecdotally, janitors never place their Wet Floor signs properly and every time I see one I inadvertently slip. But my dang lawyer never wins the law suit, and I have to pay court costs. Total attorney incompetence that leads directly with each fall to my own potential death and injury. Will no one rid me of this turbulent lawyer?

    • #17
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:29 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Mark Camp Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    And the percentage that were justified.

    A burden that we silently carry, we compulsive critical thinkers, is that when someone asks a question in jest, we still start pondering it. It’s why no one invites us to parties anymore. I hope no one will egg me on, and I can go back to thinking about serious questions.

    • #18
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Flicker Coolidge

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    But is it really fair to compare those who have to contend with qualitative metre and arcane rules of grammar to police, who only have to be concerned with life and death?

    They could make an app.

    • #19
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Mark Camp Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    It’s high time attention was paid to the good job police are doing, relative to other professions. Multiple studies show that a poet was 3.7 times as likely as a police officer in the US to make a major error in 2017, the latest period for which we have data.

    For English Lit professionals, who ironically have a higher favorability than poets according to the consensus of pollsters, sadly the numbers are even worse: 4.1 times, with non-Hispanic English Lit professionals slightly more likely to make a major error, but somewhat less likely to make an oops; for boo-boos, both groups are statistically equal.

    To allow major errors to be compared between professions, experts have taken into account variations in tendencies to make specific categories of errors. For example, not surprisingly, police are significantly more likely to make a spelling error on a shift report, but less likely to overuse color imagery, compared to poets.

    Anecdotally, janitors never place their Wet Floor signs properly and every time I see one I inadvertently slip. But my dang lawyer never wins the law suit, and I have to pay court costs. Total attorney incompetence that leads directly with each fall to my own potential death and injury. Will no one rid me of this turbulent lawyer?

    I think overusing color imagery, as bad as it is, would have been better than “turbulent”. But I’m no poet.

    • #20
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Flicker Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    It’s why no one invites us to parties anymore.

    That’s the equation!

    • #21
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    For English Lit professionals, who ironically have a higher favorability than poets according to the consensus of pollsters,

    If one breaks out lyrical poets, AKA lyricists or song-writers, the numbers change again significantly.

    • #22
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    And the percentage that were justified.

    I’m pretty sure in the case of most lawyers the justified percentage is zero. There may be a few defense attorneys whose clients deserved death, but they are the exception.

    • #23
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:46 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I wonder how many deaths lawyers cause per year?

    And the percentage that were justified.

    A burden that we silently carry, we compulsive critical thinkers, is that when someone asks a question in jest, we still start pondering it. It’s why no one invites us to parties anymore. I hope no one will egg me on, and I can go back to thinking about serious questions.

    Here’s an omelette. Have a ball.

    • #24
    • June 5, 2020, at 4:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Flicker Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    I think overusing color imagery, as bad as it is, would have been better than “turbulent”. But I’m no poet.

    “Turbulent” is from the original. I was thinking about substituting “wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy, this senior junior, giant dwarf” but I thought it too wordy.

    • #25
    • June 5, 2020, at 5:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  26. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Your facts are no match for my pre-conceived notions! 

    • #26
    • June 5, 2020, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. Gene Killian Coolidge

    A counterpoint: The argument in the post is focused on homicide. But there are lots of statistics showing that a black person is more likely to be hassled by the police than a white person. I do wonder how much of it comes down to training. There’s a great book by George Thompson called “Verbal Judo,” that, in my opinion, should be taught at the academy. It shows how cops (and all of us) can often defuse situations through language. Interesting read.

    To state the obvious, I also wonder how much of this would be happening if this weren’t an election year. I think that a lot of the BLM protestors are raising a valid point about some of the police, but after November 3, I think they may find themselves recipients of the Cindy Sheehan Participation Award.

    Lastly, despite the old good cop/bad cop dichotomy (that still works in negotiation!), I wonder whether that’s a realistic description. Everyone has their bad moments, especially in a high-stress job. (Note: I’m not referring to the four Minneapolis cops, who are, in my estimation, not fit to wear the badge.)

    Of course, these are just my observations. I’m usually completely wrong…

     

     

    • #27
    • June 6, 2020, at 11:15 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  28. Bob Thompson Member

    GeneKillian (View Comment):

    A counterpoint: The argument in the post is focused on homicide. But there are lots of statistics showing that a black person is more likely to be hassled by the police than a white person. I do wonder how much of it comes down to training. There’s a great book by George Thompson called “Verbal Judo,” that, in my opinion, should be taught at the academy. It shows how cops (and all of us) can often defuse situations through language. Interesting read.

    To state the obvious, I also wonder how much of this would be happening if this weren’t an election year. I think that a lot of the BLM protestors are raising a valid point about some of the police, but after November 3, I think they may find themselves recipients of the Cindy Sheehan Participation Award.

    Lastly, despite the old good cop/bad cop dichotomy (that still works in negotiation!), I wonder whether that’s a realistic description. Everyone has their bad moments, especially in a high-stress job. (Note: I’m not referring to the four Minneapolis cops, who are, in my estimation, not fit to wear the badge.)

    Of course, these are just my observations. I’m usually completely wrong…

     

     

    Well-considered counterpoint. I think harassment and intimidation is the bigger issue especially for those who have had what must be labeled inappropriate interventions by law enforcement. I refer to Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina for a prime example.

    • #28
    • June 6, 2020, at 11:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Hoyacon Member

    GeneKillian (View Comment):

    A counterpoint: The argument in the post is focused on homicide. But there are lots of statistics showing that a black person is more likely to be hassled by the police than a white person. I do wonder how much of it comes down to training. There’s a great book by George Thompson called “Verbal Judo,” that, in my opinion, should be taught at the academy. It shows how cops (and all of us) can often defuse situations through language. Interesting read.

    I think a serious amount of these issues come down to training, which itself is a function of budgets and the need for bodies on the street. Regarding homicide numbers v. other types of “interactions,” the latter may be problematical because there are many more variables involved in the situation, and it is hard to capture those variables in a stat. It’s necessary to do a pretty deep dive to get some degree of context.

    • #29
    • June 6, 2020, at 11:32 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  30. Columbo Member

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    The problem is the cities that allow dangerous use-of-force procedures. Fix the cities and fix the problem. It should be noted that every police force agrees to work under those procedures, so they have to take a bit of the blame.

    And the entrenched police unions which override consequences for officers who have a record of complaints, like Chauvin did.

    • #30
    • June 6, 2020, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 5 likes