Speaking at the funeral of New York City Police Officer Wenjian Liu, FBI Director James Comey said he was shocked and bewildered by the increased number of police officer deaths in 2014, describing the number killed in 2014 as a “shocking increase.” Much the same story had been heard in various press outlets in the previous week. An article on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” for example, described 2014 as a “deadly year for police officers,” comparing 2014’s total of 123 with the 2013 total of 100.
It might be tempting to think that these claims were just a misunderstanding of statistics. Any statistic is affected by two things – long-term trends, and natural short-term fluctuations. Did Comey and Tapper simply confuse a short-term fluctuation with a long-term trend? It’s highly doubtful, because, unlike data on the number of people killed by cops, the long-term statistics on police officer fatalities are readily available online, dating all the way back to 1791! And since those statistics are maintained by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, we can assume they are quite accurate.
And what does the data show? It is true that in 2013, the number of cops who were killed was only 102, compared to 123 in 2014. But it was 2013 that was an aberration, not 2014. In 2012, the number of 122, essentially identical to 2014.
But as it turns out, there’s even more to the story than that. Because if we go back to 2011, there were 171 cops killed, and taking a 10-year average from 2001-2010, there were 166 cops killed per year. So the reality, far from 2014 being a particular “deadly year” for cops, is that the last three years have been remarkably safe for them. Indeed, to find a year in which fewer than 102 cops were killed (the number killed in 2013), you have to go all the way back to 1944!
Another website, “Officer Down Memorial Fund,” reports 118 police officers died “in the line of duty” in 2014 but a breakdown attributes 54 of the those deaths to heart attack or accident!
FBI Director Comey and CNN newsperson Tapper didn’t just make a mistake with statistics. Both were deliberately misleading the American people. In the wake of months of nationwide demonstrations against killer cops, the ruling class feels a need to push back. Using the legal system to protect the killer cops may help fool some people into thinking that the cops weren’t guilty, but eliciting actual sympathy for the cops requires more than that. It requires convincing people of how dangerous it is to be a cop, although in fact, police officer doesn’t even rank in the top ten of most deadly jobs. And what better way to convince people of that than to start talking about what a “deadly year” it’s been for cops, even if it isn’t true? And, as with all the other government lies, they can count on journalists to dutifully spread the propaganda, rather than researching the facts and reporting those instead.