The police will tell you that the reason they're arming up with surplus military gear and pursuing a shoot-first posture to their job is that being a cop is deadly business — but as the saying goes, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
Overall, America has become a less violent society, despite the way violence is framed in the media. Let's revisit last October's numbers on police safety: 2013 was the safest year to be an American cop since WWII; 2014 trailed slightly and was the second-safest year in the same period: "You're more likely to be murdered simply by living in about half of the largest cities in America than you are while working as a police officer."
So why is policing getting safer? The drop in police fatalities is a trend that mirrors the more general fall in violent crime across the country over the same period. It seems likely that whatever caused one trend also caused the other, and criminologists are still arguing over what caused the crime drop. This is usually the part where advocates for more aggressive, militarized policing argue that what they advocate must be working. But that seems unlikely. Surveys have shown that 65 to 80 percent of SWAT raids are to serve warrants on people suspected of drug crimes. And drug crimes are the one class of crimes that haven't dropped dramatically since the mid-1990s. Some have argued that better body armor for cops had something to do with it. There does seem to be some evidence for that. On the one hand, assaults on police officers are dropping too. (See Bier's graph on that here.) So it isn't just that cops and their gear are doing a better job deflecting attacks, it's that fewer people are attacking cops in the first place. On the other hand, the drop in assaults isn't nearly as steep as the drop in fatalities. So it seems safe to say that while attacks on cops are in decline, something seems to be protecting more cops from death and injury when assaults do happen. Body armor seems like a likely candidate.
Once again: police work is NOT getting more dangerous [Radley Balko/Washington Post]