Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

2011 a great year for crime stats, with one ugly exception

Post by Brian O'Neill on Dec. 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm with 2 Comments »
December 31, 2011 5:03 pm

Closing out a year would not be complete without the traditional avalanche of news articles that attempt to wrap up our collective yearly experiences into a nifty little gift bag. Sucker that I am for tradition, I spent much of the waning hours of 2011 reflecting on the trends and stats of our most recent spin around the sun.

And I found a paradox.

An insightful column in the Trib, written by the Washington Post’s Charles Lane, highlights the national crime rate’s plunge over the last 20 years. I appreciated his nod to this phenomenon, both for the rare bit of good news as well as his insight on its causes.

These statistics, which continued to nosedive this past year, could be attributed to many factors: social intervention; increased incarceration rates; better policing models. Lane points out, however, that there is no definitive answer to the decline. Population trends and socio-economic demographics are also possible causes, though difficult to prove (much as my own theory, which is that even criminals are spending way too much time on Facebook).

Whatever the reason, it would appear that crime is on the decline. Except for one statistic: cop-killing.

Funeral for a Philadelphia police officer/ AP Photo

The Department of Justice’s report, discussed in a 12/28 Trib column, concluded that 173 officers had been killed in the line of duty in 2011. This was an overall increase of 13% over 2010 and marked the second year in a row of such an increase. Another violent trend was the 15% increase in death by gunfire. These stats are the highest since the inception of bullet-proof vests in the late 1970’s brought significant decline.

These stats were not news to those of us in law enforcement. The increase in violent assaults on cops has been evident for some time now, if only by the anecdotal evidence available by driving a patrol car for a shift. In addition, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) sends out a nationwide teletype to all local, state and federal agencies describing the circumstances of each and every “line of duty death”. These reports are usually read in the briefings, line-ups or turnouts that begin most police shifts.

The gory details surrounding the last call of a fellow cop is distributed for educational purposes. Not surprisingly, it is also a gut-wrenching and sobering experience. After so many years (and so many funerals), the words “FBI report of a police officer killed in the line of duty” instinctively makes my fists clench and my head swim. At the conclusion of the report my vision is sometimes inexplicably blurred by moisture.

At least for me, there is a strong sour flavor to the sweet news reported nationwide. I have a difficult time understading the paradox between a nation experiencing a healthy and welcome decline in overall crime, while a cop is far more likely to die a violent death. Though it would be very useful to know why this is so, when 2012 draws to a close I still fervently hope that the year end articles continue to show a downward trend in nationwide crime.

And I don’t really care if the credit goes to social intervention, longer incarceration or better policing – just as long as I don’t have to listen to any more stories about the violent death of a police officer.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    Hopefully, at the end of 2012, we will have just as many LEOs and Military, Firemen, etc as we started the year with. IMO, the interaction between civilians and cops is evolving, and not in a good direction; Both sides mistrusting more and more as they see the violence done on both sides of the Blue Line.

  2. If you’ve heard about a deputy’s kid’s diaper rash at 3 AM
    over my fifth cup of coffee since I got there 4 hours ago
    you realize cops are human and most of them are nice.
    If a few of them crash into my apartment because they got
    some numbers transposed they will get a severe tongue lashing.
    And that’s it.

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