How dangerous is it to be a police officer?

Feb 17, 2011, 9:04 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:48 pm

Policing can obviously be dangerous, but I was surprised to hear a Seattle Police recruiter tell an audience last year that it’s actually one of the safer occupations. That appears to be true: the stats vary, but no list of dangerous professions puts policing at the top.

Here’s the libertarian (not liberal, libertarian) point of view from a 2007 article in Reason Magazine:

Generally, police are about three times as likely to be killed on the job as the average American. It isn’t among the top ten most dangerous professions, falling well behind logging, fishing, driving a cab, trash collecting, farming, and truck driving. Moreover, about half of police killed on the job are killed in traffic accidents, and most of those are not while in pursuit of a criminal or rushing to the scene of a crime… the number of annual on-the-job police fatalities doesn’t justify giving cops bigger guns, military equipment, and allowing them to use more aggressive and increasingly militaristic tactics.

And if we take out traffic accidents, etc:

…take out traffic accidents and other non-violent deaths, and you’re left with 69 officers killed on the job by criminals last year [2006]…That breaks down to about 8 deaths per 100,000 officers, or less than twice the national average of on-the-job fatalities… Twice the national average means police work certainly carries added risk… if policymakers were really serious about protecting police officers, there’s one thing they could do that would have a dramatic, immediate impact on officer safety: They could end the drug war.

These are excerpts; full article here. -DR

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How dangerous is it to be a police officer?