Epidemic is defined as “a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon.” That’s the word I’ve heard used to describe race relations between police officers and minority communities in this country. Here are some numbers regarding American law enforcement and their use of force to help you put things in perspective.
- There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States.
- It is estimated there were 240 million calls to 9-1-1 nationwide in 2016.
- It is estimated over 40 million Americans (16 and older) have a face-to-face encounter with law enforcement each year.
- In 2015 and 2016, white Americans were shot by police nearly 2 to 1 as compared to African-Americans.
- A recent Washington State University study entitled, “The Reverse Racism Effect” found that officers were slower to shoot armed black suspects than armed white suspects, and officers were less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.
I mention these statistics because they are surprising and go against the one-sided, skewed narrative we so often hear on a daily basis. These numbers don’t fit the conclusion that there’s an epidemic of police violence against minorities. But let me put statistics aside for a moment because both sides can shout numbers at each other all day, and similar to a political debate, by the end, nobody knows what to believe.
Let me talk to you about my experiences, being an officer for fifteen years in a major city here in America. I can tell you whole heartedly the vast majority of police officers I know, worked with, met, trained with, or came into contact with were selfless, brave, patient, giving, caring people who go out every day and protect people of every race on a daily basis using their own lives as collateral for each police action they undertake. I would say this was easily over 90% of the officers I’ve met.
There was definitely a group of officers who were not the best communicators. These officers were gruff or tended to come off as rude and arrogant. I would estimate this to be around 9%. Here are some things I observed that also applied to this same group: They were well trained and skilled. They knew the laws, policies, and generally knew what they were doing. They were usually also talented, smart officers, and many were physically or mentally gifted. All of these people, despite rubbing many citizens and coworkers the wrong way, were good people. I routinely saw in their actions and their hearts, they wanted to do what was right.
Then there were a few officers along the way that didn’t deserve to be wearing the uniform. I estimate this group to be 1% of the officers I’ve personally ever met or known. I can also say that even if it sometimes took longer than it should, those officers eventually were fired or left the job. Usually their issues revolved around poor decision-making, bad prioritization, no deductive reasoning, an inability to multitask, or substance abuse issues.
In my many years out on the streets interacting with all three of these groups of officers, I never once witnessed a suggestion, inference, attempt, hint, noticeable pattern, or any other item of evidence to suggest that ANY officer EVER wanted to go after a specific race of people to harass, torment, pull them over or hurt them. The only people the cops wanted to go out and harass were criminals! In Chapter 20 of From Boy To Blue, I go into more detail about Denver’s own statistics, and the acts I’ve witnessed other cops perform.
I offer you this testimony in addition to “statistics” because my experiences can’t necessarily be quantified in a scientific study. But the experiences of officers who have done the job and do the job now are relevant and important to today’s war on cops. This is why I wrote my book From Boy To Blue.This is why I’m doing weekly podcasts and articles. I’m so passionate about this topic because the people of this country deserve to know the truth about their law enforcement officers.
Here’s some last truths I’ll leave you with:
- Officers are performing less self initiated activities due to fear of being involved in a controversial incident.
- On more and more routine calls, officers are facing groups of protestors, people taunting, harassing, name calling, escalating situations all while shoving cell phones in the faces of officers trying to perform their duties.
The false narrative against police continues to be driven by activist groups and the media, with the only epidemic I see being created is that of law enforcement officers whose tendency is becoming responding to crime instead of preventing it.
Steve Warneke is a retired sergeant, contributor, broadcaster, police expert, and author of From Boy To Blue. You can find podcasts and more from Steve at www.SteveWarneke.com.