Last Sunday marked the beginning of National Police Week (NPW), a time for cops from all over the nation to converge on DC to remember their fallen brethren by drinking and urinating in public, driving drunk, and engaging in other general lawlessness.
Here’s a video someone took showing some of the typical drunken illegal antics residents have to endure during Police Week. Some of the worst incidents have involved more serious offenses such as rape.
In between the bouts of behavior unbecoming an officer, there are also ceremonies to remember the dead and inscribe new names on monuments. What the NPW pomp and circumstance fails to recognize, however, is how relatively safe it is to be a police officer in the United States. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that policing doesn’t even rank in the top ten most dangerous professions. Loggers, garbage men, and construction workers all provide a vital service to our communities, and experience a far higher rate of on the job deaths, however no one erects a memorial or dedicates a week of remembrance for their sacrifices.
The rate of on-duty deaths for law enforcement is low, and so are the total numbers of deaths. In a typical year, somewhere around 120 officers die while on duty. Contrary to the popular notion that cops killed on the job usually die in a hail of bullets or some other dramatic fashion, most of them die from more mundane causes like, car accidents and heart attacks. Fallen officer statistics are also inflated by including the deaths of police dogs. It’s ironic that they give such reverence to K-9 officers considering the huge number of dogs routinely killed by police officers each year.
While law enforcement agencies pad their stats to make it appear policing is more dangerous than it really is, they collude with medical examiners, the media, and prosecutors to hide how many people are killed by law enforcement. They do this by refusing to report accurate numbers to state and federal agencies, framing deceased citizens as aggressors in initial reports that are not thoroughly investigated or corrected once more details some to light, and by attributing these deaths to imaginary causes that don’t seem to occur outside of police custody.
Take for example, 37-year-old Natasha McKenna, who died in February after Fairfax County Sheriff’s deputies used a taser on her 4 times. The 130-lb McKenna was fully restrained in handcuffs and leg shackles at the time. She went into cardiac arrest following the incident and died at a hospital several days later. Despite the fact that it was against both the manufacturer’s and the department’s policies to use tasers in this manner, the medical examiner ruled the cause of death was “excited delirium.” Law enforcement agencies claim the mysterious condition affects people who are mentally ill or under the influence of drugs and that “those in its grip often have extraordinary strength, are impervious to pain and act wildly or violently. Then, suddenly, some die.”
To many, it looks like a sham diagnosis designed to cover up police abuse of the mentally ill. The Washington Post reports, “Amnesty International found that the syndrome was cited in 75 of the 330 deaths following police use of a Taser on suspects between 2001 and 2008, according to Justin Mazzola, a researcher for the organization. The Washington Post found more than two dozen other examples in which excited delirium was cited in in-custody deaths. Those included deaths of people who had been restrained or had wrestled with officers, in addition to the Taser-related deaths.”
Another example is Robert Saylor, the 26-year-old man with Down Syndrome who died when three off-duty Frederick County (Maryland) Sheriff’s Deputies moonlighting as mall security guards attempted to arrest him for refusing to leave a movie theater. He wanted to see “Zero Dark Thirty” a second time. The health aide who had taken him to the theater asked the deputies to have patience while she handled the situation and warned them that Saylor would “freak out” if they touched him. Instead they pulled him out of his seat and onto the floor where one deputy kneeled on top of him with a knee in his back, and two others held him down as he cried out for his mother. Once the deputies realized he was unconscious and without a pulse, they removed the handcuffs, turned him over, and performed CPR, however Saylor never regained consciousness.
WJLA reports “The state medical examiner’s office found signs of ‘positional’ asphyxia, or having been in a position in which he couldn’t breathe. There was also unexplained damage to Saylor’s larynx. The autopsy concluded Saylor would not have died had the officers not intervened. The autopsy also found that Saylor’s developmental disability, obesity, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and a heart abnormality contributed to the death.
When people die due to police actions involving excessive force, improper restraint techniques, and overuse of electronic torture devices, it is because of pre-existing physical or psychological conditions, not the inappropriate, unnecessarily escalating actions of the officers. However when police officers die from heart attacks after shoveling snow or changing a tire, it’s not attributed to heredity, poor cardiovascular health, or mental illness. It’s a heroic death in the line of duty and their names go up on the Officer Down Memorial Page.
This through the looking glass approach to classifying deaths differently based on whether it was an officer that died or whether an officer caused the death exposes the belief that only police lives matter. While no one who holds this belief will state it this plainly, you can see evidence of it everywhere. It doesn’t matter if cops are completely mistaken in shooting, shocking, or smothering a person to death. All they have to say is, “I feared for my safety,” and they are let off scot-free because only cops have to “make it home at night.” This tells us explicitly that cops’ lives matter so much more than everyone else’s that it is not even questioned when they kill innocent people over imagined threats to their safety. “I need to make it home at night,” has become a blanket excuse to totally disregard established protocols and common sense, and shut off all concern for the lives and safety of others.