America’s police aren’t trying to kill us

Police officers defend their communities at the risk of their own lives, sprinting into danger even though those they are safeguarding may be complete strangers. Policing is one of the few professions where employees do not know whether they will go home at the end of the day. Even people who abhor the police are aware of this. Yet, what these dissidents apparently do not understand is that every life has significance, regardless of a person’s political beliefs or preconceived notions about someone else.

Police officers grow up in neighborhoods with the rest of us, and they have families and friends like everyone else. They, too, have political perspectives, and even their most ardent detractors might agree with them on some issues. But for liberals who hate the police, such as members of Black Lives Matter, this evidently doesn’t matter; if someone dons a police uniform and pins a badge to their chest, they become “the enemy.”

According to the New York Post, after the recent shooting of a Washington, D.C., police officer, the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter — in tweets that were later deleted — bemoaned the labeling of wounded officers as “heroes” in “tearjerker news conferences” without first evaluating what “the policeman did wrong.” One deleted tweet expressed outrage about police officers killing Black individuals, saying that “being Black in D.C. is more dangerous than any job.” But statistics show that, when a person’s race is known, people of color typically do not account for most police-involved shooting deaths.

Yet, organizations such as Black Lives Matter apparently believe that police are simply eager to shoot people of color; that they aren’t taking action when people use deadly force against them. 

A civilian being killed and a police officer being killed are different scenarios. When a police officer is killed on duty, around half the time the officer is responding to a threat, one from which most people probably would flee. The threats to which police respond often involve criminals with guns — 44 out of 48 fatal attacks, according to FBI statistics; vehicles were used in the other four instances. So, officers are not shot because they create a threat; they are shot because they respond to threats.

Officers in seven states, and in many big cities, are required to wear body cameras that can preserve a record of their interactions with those they suspect of committing crimes. Police vehicles also have cameras that record continuously. Shootings involving officers invariably result in investigations. Put another way, police are scrutinized during most engagements with members of the public. America’s police officers are rigorously trained and held responsible for failing to adhere to criteria, especially if their actions involve discharging their firearm. 

Research shows that out of more than 13,000 fatal police-involved shootings between 2005 and 2019, 104 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter. Thirty-five were convicted, whether by trial or plea. However, statistics fail to give regard to circumstances and rules that may shield police from criminal prosecution, as well as the justifications for such regulations.

For example, should an officer who fires at a person shooting at him be counted in statistics that someone cites when trying to prove that police are not held accountable for killing civilians? Or, should officers not be allowed to fire at suspects who fire at another civilian? And, regarding justifications, is it not good policy for police to be able to protect themselves when their lives are threatened?

When police officers have probable cause to believe that someone may use deadly force against them or someone else, they are legally entitled to use lethal force. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why so few officers are convicted of murder or manslaughter. They’re trained to fire when necessary; if that were untrue, we would see far more than the roughly 1,000 or so fatal shootings by police each year.

Looking at the ratio between total arrests and killings, police made more than 10 million arrests in 2019 and killed 1,096 suspects. Without considering the circumstances, these figures alone indicate that police will kill someone in 0.0108 percent of all arrests. But many people on the far left decry police shootings of any sort, claiming that suspects were doing nothing wrong. If it were true that a person is always at risk of being shot by an officer, regardless of their actions, then we should look at total police encounters. And that means, with approximately 375 million police encounters in 2019, only about 0.00029 percent of all police encounters result in civilian deaths.

So, no, police are not out to kill people, whether they are people of color or not. Police respond to calls for help, often putting their own lives at risk, and that’s why we hold “tearjerker news conferences” when an officer is harmed or killed.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags anti-police Black Lives Matter Criminal justice reform police use of deadly force

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