Arrests are down. The number of cops is down. Violence is skyrocketing. And it’s all getting very, very dangerous.

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For police officers, being proactive and/or making arrests is extraordinarily dangerous.

With the immense criticism directed towards law enforcement regarding use of force and considering that most offenders either have substance abuse concerns or are under the influence at the time of arrest or have mental health or severe medical or impulse issues, every cop in the country knows that proactive stops and arrests can turn into major controversies in a heartbeat.

Add firearms or weapon possession to the issue plus considerable negative publicity and it’s understandable as to why arrests are decreasing and why violent crime is increasing.

Quote-USA Today:

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said violent crime has worsened in the United States over the past year, and nearly a third have seen it rise in their communities.

While they expressed trust in their local police, however, the classic call to get tough on crime has been tempered by broad concerns about law enforcement tactics and the equality of the criminal justice system, USA Today

I pulled over a car for considerable littering. The occupants showed no signs of being under the influence but they were verbally threatening. I said to myself that a simple traffic stop was about to get ugly.

It was only resolved when an older man in the back seat told the others to stand down, I was only doing my job. After ten minutes of confrontation (and a check stolen-check wanted), I issued the ticket and all departed.

I went to a call for a disturbance at a social hall. A family reunion was getting out of hand and fights ensued. After peacefully settling the situation, I was struck from behind by a combatant’s wife. They all had consumed a ton of alcohol.

All who have been cops can tell endless similar stories of pedestrian or traffic stops or calls going bad.

One never knows how people will react to the presence of a police officer.

I wrote this article to help a non-police audience understand the variables cops deal with after officers said that politicians and others were clueless as to what they were facing.

We need to understand that police operations under the banner of proactive policing seem to have the best track record of violence reduction. Proactivity is probably the only modality with a research base as to reducing crime, Proactive Policing, per a literature review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Sources

The data used for this article are from federal sources and the newly released Alcohol and Drug Use and Treatment Reported by Prisoners by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Relying on Prisoner Interviews

Most of my sources for mental health, substance abuse and medical issues rely on interviews with prisoners.

Most arrests do not result in prison or jail sentences, thus interviews with prisoners have limitations as to understanding what happens during arrests.

But it’s common for offenders to have lengthy-multiple arrests before the imposition of a prison or jail sentence.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 58 percent of incarcerated males are in state prisons for violent offenses. Add criminal history, and the percentage is much higher.

Prisoner Interviews Are Often Undercounts

The information offered as to offender mental health and substance abuse is an undercount of state and federal prisoners due to self-reporting.

Offenders in prison are very suspicious of any attempt to elicit information regardless of assurances on the part of interviewers that the information gained is strictly for research purposes and won’t be used against them.

The Extent Of The Undercounts-Comparison Data

Substance Abuse: States routinely provide an estimate that 80 percent of their prisoners have either substance abuse problems or major addictions.

Under The Influence At Arrest: Anywhere from 56 percent (Charlotte) to 82 percent (Chicago) of arrestees tested positive for the presence of some substance at the time of an arrest. In 9 out of the 10 sites, 60 percent or more of arrestees tested positive per the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM II-since discontinued), National Institute Of Justice.

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Substance Abuse At the Time Of Arrest-New Bureau Of Justice Statistics Report

Thirty-one percent of state prisoners and 25% of federal prisoners reported drinking alcohol at the time of the offense according to the new study.

Nearly 4 in 10 state prisoners (39%) and 3 in 10 federal prisoners (31%) reported using drugs at the time of the offense according to the new study, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

It’s clear that most offenders are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of arrest.

Why This Is Important-The Dynamics of Arrests

There is immense controversy regarding police interactions and the use of force at the time of arrest. The simplest of interactions can explode. People need to understand the dynamics.

Per Bureau of Justice Statistics research, more than half of all prison and jail inmates had mental health problems. These estimates represented 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of jail inmates. Again, these are underestimates, Mental Health And Crime.

Add substance abuse and histories of violence and data stating that most offenders come from very troubled backgrounds and we begin to understand the dangers and difficulties of making stops and arrests.

“I know there’s a saying that ‘Hurt people, hurt people,’” Winfield said. “But where I come from, hurt people kill people, CBS News Covering Baltimore. Cops deal with a lot of “hurt people” daily.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, many prisoners have severe medical issues which complicate many interactions.

It’s also common for weapons and firearms to be present.

Arrests Are Down

Arrests are down throughout the country, Arrests.

Juvenile arrests are down 70 percent while adult arrests plummet, Juvenile Arrests.

Cops Leaving

Per a multitude of media reports, police officers are leaving law enforcement. We have problems with recruitment; a 63 percent decrease, Cops Leaving.

Media is reporting that calls for law enforcement in some cities are going unanswered or are considerably delayed. Firearm purchases are increasing dramatically.

Data states that (72%) of officers are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, Pew.

Violent Crime Increased

Violent crime has increased by 28 percent since 2015. Data from the FBI, Gallup and additional sources confirm increasing violence and serious violence, US Crime Rates.

Conclusions

For cops, being proactive and/or making arrests or responding to calls is extraordinarily dangerous.

I’m not suggesting that all or most police-civilian interactions are with the people described above, but a lot of them are. Unfortunately, all cops have to consider every stop as potentially dangerous. The demeanor of the person stopped sets off alarm bells. Considering the data offered, how could they not?

With the immense criticism directed towards law enforcement regarding use of force and considering that most offenders either have substance abuse concerns or are under the influence at the time of arrest or have mental health or severe medical issues plus histories of violence or impulsivity, every cop in the country knows that stops and arrests can blow up and turn into major controversies in a heartbeat.

Add firearms or weapon possession to the issue plus immense negative publicity and it’s understandable as to why arrests are decreasing and why violent crime is increasing.

To take considerable risks, police officers need to feel supported by the communities they serve. In many cities for many reasons, that foundation has evaporated. Communities need to openly support law enforcement if they want officers to take more risks. Most of the country gets this. Those that don’t will experience more violence.

Policymakers and critics of law enforcement and the general public need to understand the immense difficulty and risk with stops and arrests, especially in high crime areas.

We within the justice community are often asked why a situation deteriorated into a violent confrontation. Maybe it’s the officer’s demeanor or lack of de-escalation skills or a history of negative encounters by those stopped.

Or maybe the person has a history of mental health problems due to a terrible and abusive childhood (including well-documented child abuse or brain damage or PTSD) and is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Maybe he’s violent or has a violent history. These are all protected issues under state and federal privacy acts thus they are not disclosed to the public after an event.

If we are going to ask police officers to make arrests-stops and to bring increasing violent crime down, we need to be cognizant that things can go south quickly regardless of the officer’s courtesy or professionalism.

I’m not excusing “bad” cops or a history of insensitivity or a lack of training or equipment, but encounters with people with massive personal or medical problems are common.

Cities with crime problems need to do much more in terms of training and equipment. BolaWraps (disabling devices) should be issued to every officer. K-9 dogs (yes, I know the history of abuse) cause many belligerent and combative people to instantly and peacefully comply without any contact with the dog.

Addressing the mental health and emotional needs of officers is a must, Untreated Stress.

Yet advocates oppose these suggestions. How many cities employ these tactics? The vast majority do not.

It continues to astound me that, per citizen surveys, force “or” the threat of force during arrests or public interactions occurs in two to three percent of civilian contacts and most people (regardless of demographics) rate their interactions with law enforcement highly, Police Myths.

Considering the dangers of police confrontations, the data from citizen surveys (regardless of demographics) are routinely positive and an indication that the vast majority of cops are simply trying to do the right thing. Per the research, most succeed.

We understand that officers are here to serve all equally, without exception. We are all aware of the data suggesting that minorities are concerned with issues of respect or overly harsh encounters.

We must do better. But “doing better” requires community cooperation-guidance, understanding, and support. It won’t happen any other way.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed (https://crimeinamerica.net/?feed=rss2) provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.

Author

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.

Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.

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