The police have a tough job, and it’s not really the job of the press to make it easier as a general rule. The two jobs bump into one another a time or two, but they tend to be pretty different.
That said, it doesn’t help with the media presents facts one way, lacking perspective, all so they can make it look like the police are nothing more than trigger-happy nutjobs just waiting to blow someone away.
Take this post from Politico titled, “We may have a treatment for our police shooting epidemic; we’re just not using it“.
Just 24 days into 2015, police in the U.S. had 59 fatal encounters, while police in all of England and Wales have had 55 fatal encounters in the last 24 years.
At this point U.S. police are on track to kill at least 1,000 people for the third consecutive year. Their counterparts in England and Wales are on track to kill four.
Yes, the U.S. may have a population that’s at least six times greater than England and Wales combined, but this year our police are likely to kill almost 250 times more suspects than theirs will.
All this begs questions about the kind of tactics used by U.S. law enforcement, and the types of training they undergo — specifically, why is the act of policing so much more lethal in the U.S.? To no surprise, there are lots of different answers.
Except, there’s really just one answer, and that’s how these numbers are being presented without any context.
You see, the England and the United States are completely different countries. They’re not similar in many ways, and those difference also drive the number of shootings by police.
For one, the United States has a much higher violent crime rate. Criminals who are violent with the average citizen are probably more likely to try and get violent with police officers. That puts officers in a position where they may well have to use their firearm in defense of their lives. That alone accounts for much of the disparity between the two countries.
But that’s not all.
In the United States, we arm our police officers. That means our officers have the equipment needed to engage in a shootout if necessary. In the UK, over 90 percent of their officers are unarmed. That means British officers are simply not equipped to deal with armed suspects, which necessitates different procedures than if they were armed.
Further, the UK lacks the various subcultures that scream “F*** the police!” at every opportunity, which means suspects are potentially more likely to try and injure or kill police officers, thus making it less necessary to shoot them.
Yet without this context, Politico has made it look like the police are out there looking for people to kill. They’re not. They’re just men and women trying to do a tough job, and media outlets like Politico are arguing they’re out there gunning folks down because of all these reasons that have nothing to do with the reality on the ground.