Police Violence: Is it on the rise
In recent months, we have seen many news stories about police shootings, and shootings of civilians by police officers. While many of these stories have been controversial, what do the numbers say? Some people would argue that the use of social media, and number of citizens with videophones just highlights the problem more. But there does seem to be truth to arguments that racial tensions are rising, along with distrust towards police departments by low income and minority communities. While solving the racial and socioeconomic issues involved with these topics would be complicated and difficult, let's look at what the data says about the numbers behind officer involved shootings.
So, is police violence on the rise? Let's look at both sides of this coin. A 2016 article published by The Washington Times states that in the first two months of the year, there were 11 line of duty deaths that involved a gun used against an officer. That was 10 more than the previous year at the same time – a huge jump. Police experts are saying that criminals aren't as fearful about trying to harm officers while committing crimes. The recent police shootings in Dallas, as well as other cities, show there is anti-authority forces on the rise, at least for right now, caused by a variety of social problems.
Another aspect of this discussion involves the killing of civilians by officers. According to a 2014 report by the FBI, violent crime among citizens was down, but civilians being killed by the police had risen. The 1.16 million incidents of violent crime in 2013 was the lowest in any reported year since 1978. That same year, incidents of civilians being killed by police numbered a reported range of 461 to 1,700, depending on the research you looked at.
The debate about how to protect the lives of citizens and police officers through better community relations, training, and reviews of police procedures will be needed to find ways to reduce the number of killings on both sides of the thin blue line.
So, what are government agencies doing to solve the problem? A recent example was made by the city of Baltimore. The mayor and police department released a plan called Preventing Harm, to outline their efforts to improve community relations. The plan also calls for body cameras on police officers to record interactions that might result in lawsuits or dispute.
Of course, who knows if police violence on the rise this year will continue climbing, remain steady, or drop back down. If the recent police shootings are just a blip, then the real difference may lie in our ability to record and share every aspect of our lives with our phones. This coverage provided by CNN, suggests that violence by police isn't really up. It's our ability to watch every instance without leaving our Facebook feed that makes it seem like a growing problem. Before, it was just talked about. Now we see it regularly in the news.
Right now, a big problem with accurately reporting the data on these incidents, is that the numbers aren't tracked very well. Despite the "Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994", which required keeping track of these numbers, the database has never been created.
No matter what the numbers, we need to keep working with our law enforcement officials and fellow members of our communities to help improve relations. If you are considering a law enforcement career because you care about your community, you can be a bridge that leads towards furthering peace and lowering crime for your neighbors.
Do you have positive ideas for ways law enforcement agencies can help work with their communities to reduce crime and foster positive relations? Let us know in the comments below! Or, if you are a professional in law enforcement and want to be interviewed for our site, you can contact us directly.