Saturday, July 25, 2009

On the dangers police face

If you haven't read JS' letter at TPM on policing, you really ought to. Excerpt:
Police work is not that dangerous compared to, say, driving a cab. Firefighters have a far more physically dangerous job. However, cops have a heroic job: much harder in so many ways than firefighting. Firefighters are almost never in a morally ambiguous zone and almost always are in the business of making people feel good. Cops handle humans at their worst.
It's a perspective on police work that we almost never hear, but it's probably a lot more accurate and appropriate than the usual militaristic descriptions we get. Read the whole thing.


Cory said...

I did go read it and I think I disagree. Traffic stops and domestic violence calls have such a variety of unknowns that make them dangerous calls. Police (especially patrolmen) are dealing with the sad, the bad and the mad continuously - not to mention the drugged, the crazy and the armed. Cops are rushing in where civilians are rushing out. And I don't necessarily agree with the comparison with firefighters, either. Here out west there's hardly ever a building fire that kills a firefighter - I do acknowledge that back east with the older buildings is a different story. Out here, most calls for firefighters are paramedic calls/car accidents etc. The general public loves their fireman - who hates a guy that helps you at an accident or a fire? But, the general public has less of a united opinion on cops...

I guess I would ask the author what constitutes a "dangerous" job in his opinion... I'd like more hard statements than opinion.... not discounting that cabbies and firefighters have a job that's more dangerous than the norm, but to justify that cops don't...? I don't get that.

Seth said...

I take your point, Cory. But, at least in terms of on-the-job deaths, here are stats showing that being a police officer isn't even among the ten most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Also see this interesting discussion of police safety. I think JS' point was actually in line with yours. The real challenge that they face is not so much getting shot every day but distinguishing between threatening and nonthreatening situations and making those distinctions in a quick enough time to avoid ending a life and a career.