Op/Ed: Police Stops Are Dangerous. Arrests Are Plummeting. Why Violence Is Increasing.


Police Stops Are Dangerous. Arrests Are Plummeting. Why Violence Is Increasing. The following article has been written by Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. It includes editorial content which is the opinion of the writer.

Ever wonder why violence is increasing?

Are there reasons why arrests are plummeting, correctional populations are at record lows and thousands of cops are leaving?

Accountability for criminal offenders reduces violence. No accountability means more violence. This article summarizes the data.


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.


Why is urban violence increasing? One answer could be rapidly decreasing arrests. But no one addresses the reasons why police interactions are so politically and operationally hazardous and what that means for crime control and citizen safety.

There are 54 million police-citizen contacts each year. The data below focuses on those arrested, their characteristics, and public opinion.

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What Americans Say About Cops

We know from US Department of Justice data based on 54 million yearly contacts that 88% reported that they were satisfied with the police response, with 93% saying they would be more or as likely to contact police again in the future.

Approximately 4% of residents experienced some type of police action during their most recent police-initiated or traffic accident-related contact, with 3% experiencing the threat or use of force. Overall use or threat of force (all encounters) or threat of force was two percent.

About 1% of U.S. residents experienced misconduct during their most recent contact with police.

Most Americans, regardless of demographics, give police high marks via polls as to trust, service, and the desire to have them in their communities with differences based on political affiliation, race, ethnic background, and age.

But Arrests Are Increasingly Dangerous and Rare

There’s no criminal accountability without arrests and arrests are becoming increasingly rare.

According to the data below, most arrested offenders (who received a correctional status) had mental health or substance abuse issues.

With the proliferation of firearms (and other weapons) in the hands of offenders and with most being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and with many (most?) having mental health or emotional issues, police contacts and arrests can become dangerous without warning.

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Arrests Are Now At Record Lows-Thousands Of Police Officers Are Quitting-Violence Is Increasing

With all in law enforcement being endlessly scrutinized for the faults (or criminal actions) of a few, what makes people think that criticism of “all” cops will produce proactive officers? Why risk your life or career if you believe that communities are not supportive?

Arrests are at record lows.

Proactive policing, the modality with the best research as to effectiveness isn’t being pursued by many because of the potential for career-ending mistakes.

Because of the perception of unfairness in media coverage and the stereotyping of over a million police employees based on the actions of a few, thousands of police officers are quitting per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and multiple additional sources. Recruitment is down considerably. Some suggest that unqualified or under-qualified officers are taking their place.

Homicides rose by 50 percent; aggravated assaults rose by 36 percent per the Major City Chiefs Association. Multiple additional sources state that urban violence is increasing. Children are traumatized. Jobs are lost. People and businesses are fleeing.

(Photo from from Coastguard.dodlive.mil.)
Police Officers from around the country escort busses of family members of officers killed in the line of duty to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial before a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 9, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Correctional Populations Are At Record Lows Because Arrests Have Plummeted

The U.S. prison population was 1,204,300 at year-end 2021, a 25% decrease from 2011 (1,599,000) while violence (and serious violence) increased beginning in 2015.

Progressives will say it’s because of COVID. Violence increased 28 percent well before COVID per the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Arrests decreased well before COVID.

Per the Bureau Of Justice Statistics, 58% of all persons imprisoned by states had been sentenced for violent offenses. If we consider criminal histories, the great majority of incarcerated people have backgrounds of violence or are multiple repeat offenders.

The overwhelming majority are rearrested and incarcerated after release.

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The Reasons For Decreased Arrests

We have massive scrutiny of police interactions gone wrong (or perceived to go wrong) during arrests but we don’t discuss the reasons why police stops are so difficult, why cops are now reluctant to engage in proactive policing, the massive decrease in arrests, and why tens of thousands of police officers are leaving the job.

What follows offers some insight into the complexity of police stops.

Most Correctional Offenders Have Mental Health Issues

We’ve known since a Bureau Of Justice Statistics self-report study that more than half of all prison and jail inmates have mental health problems. These estimates represented 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of jail inmates. Forty-four percent of jail inmates had been told by a mental health professional in the past that they had a mental health disorder.

54 Percent Of Correctional Offenders Have A Serious Brain Injury

“Through a project that began five years ago, researchers have screened 4,100 people in jail, on probation or assigned to drug courts in Denver and five other counties to find out how many have a traumatic brain injury — an impairment that could impact the likelihood of their return to the criminal justice system.”

“The results were stark: 54 percent had a history of serious brain injury, compared with 8 percent of the general population,” Denver Post.

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There are articles-research about people who live in high-crime communities having PTSD because of their exposure to violence in their families and community.  High-crime violence seems to be corrupting; it influences people who see violence as a necessary component of life.

Most Are Under The Influence Of Drugs Or Alcohol 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, National Institute Of Justice.

30 Percent Of Jail Inmates (Two Million) Have Mental Health Issues 

Note–The findings below are a considerable under count based on the data above.

Data from communities across the country show that 1 in 5 jailed adults has a serious mental illness. In Texas, about 30% of people in local jails had at least one such illness in 2015, according to an analysis by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas, Austin.

There are more than 2 million bookings into jails each year of people with serious mental illness.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) partnered with the Dallas Police Department and city officials to use a data-driven approach to understand the number and location of 911 calls that identify mental health issues as the primary concern. MMHPI also conducted focus groups with police officers across Dallas to hear their concerns and recommendations as primary responders to mental health calls.

MMHPI and its partners discovered a 17% increase in 911 calls from 2012 to 2015 that involved mental health concerns, and an 18% increase in the number of people booked into the county jail who were identified as having severe mental health needs.



Op/Ed: Police Stops Are Dangerous. Arrests Are Plummeting. Why Violence Is Increasing.
(Blue lights photo courtesy 911garage and Suicidal Man from from US Military Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.)


There are reasons why violence is exploding in urban areas, why arrests and police contacts become so dangerous, why arrests are plummeting, why correctional populations are at record lows, and why thousands of police officers are quitting.

Yes, child abuse and neglect plus poverty play a role but these conditions are constants during times of increases and decreases in violence. What’s different now?

First, we need to acknowledge that poverty and substance abuse issues exist in communities throughout the country without increases in violence. Appalachia is well known for economic inequities and substance abuse yet violence in most communities is very low. There are urban communities with the same conditions without exploding crime, see the Safest Cities In America.

Second, there is data indicating that mental health and substance abuse issues are increasing throughout the country making the jobs of cops very difficult. Some suggest that many if not most of the instances of the use of force by police involve offenders with these conditions yet the use of force or the threat of force is two-three percent.

The key to crime control is holding offenders accountable but you can’t do that if we pummel every police officer in the country for the actions of a few resulting in thousands of cops leaving, plummeting arrests, and record lows in the correctional population.

Why are arrests so complex and dangerous? Why do some result in immense negative publicity? The answers range from unqualified cops taking the place of those leaving (i.e., the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, TN) and the fact that so many offenders are under the influence or increasingly have mental health issues.

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With immense unsettling publicity (it was deserved in some cases), some officers are not pursuing proactive policing, the modality with the best track record of preventing or controlling crime. If cops perceive their communities as unsupportive, why take the risk? They simply leave the profession or go elsewhere.

For those mentally ill, separately funded mental health teams (without cuts to police budgets) make sense. It saves officers from unnecessary grief and frees them up for more important events. Cops (and corrections) can’t be all things to all people.

So it’s time to understand the dangerous nature of police interactions and arrests, why arrests are plummeting, why cops are leaving per urban media, and why violence is rapidly increasing especially in cities.

Yes, the justice system must unequivocally devote itself to fairness, respect, and equal treatment for all Americans regardless of who they are.

But with well over 300 police officers murdered and 60,000 assaulted in 2021 and endless negative publicity, we need a lot more understanding of their issues and less stereotyping or we will lose thousands more, and violence will continue unabated.

Communities need to get very involved with crime control and better police relations.

It’s also time to seriously address mental health and substance abuse concerns.

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.

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Op/Ed: Police Stops Are Dangerous. Arrests Are Plummeting. Why Violence Is Increasing.

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