OPINION – Is Policing really that dangerous?

Recently two of my acquaintances got into a heated argument about policing and whether it is a dangerous job.  One person was making the argument that police work really isn’t that dangerous, and the other person was growing angry at the disrespecting tone she perceived from her friend.

I am a police officer, so it would make sense that I wanted to jump right into this argument.  Fortunately, I have been working in this profession long enough to know when someone isn’t listening to you, there is no sense arguing with them.

The argument that “police work isn’t that dangerous” is common among those who know very little about police work.  Here are my counterpoints to the woman who suffers occupational ignorance:

  1. She argues that nearly half of peace officer deaths are the result of traffic accidents. Not quite true, but her point is very significant.  Police have long recognized that traffic related deaths are one risk factor we can reduce.  As a result of additional training for officers and passing new laws, 2016 traffic-related fatalities represent less than 20% of the total killed in the line of duty.  What our naysayer really needs to understand is that the police are obligated to do their job in dangerous traffic situations.  Whether it is emergency driving or being struck by a vehicle while serving others, this is still an essential job function and it is extremely dangerous.   Recognizing our risk exposure from traffic accidents has made law enforcement a much safer profession.
  1. She argues that other jobs are more dangerous.There are many jobs that are more dangerous than police work, but the predominant danger in those occupations are preventable accidents.  Working on power lines is dangerous, but rigging and failure to disconnect the power are predominant risk factors.  Roofing is dangerous, but preventable falls are the main cause of injury.  Construction accidents are common, but usually due to a preventable structure collapse or negligence in the operation of heavy machinery.Aside from being in the US Armed Forces, there is no other profession where homicide is a leading risk-factor of the occupation.  Take a second to digest what I said, before I expand on this topic.It is extremely unhealthy to walk around all day recognizing that someone might intentionally kill you.  This is the world of the modern police officer.  We actually have names for the different mental states, but it is well documented it takes 24+ hours to return to normal after being in this heightened state of awareness.  The concern for being targeted extends to your days off, and even when you are out with your family.  I have been threatened with death by more than one suspect, and he even threatened to kill my loved ones.
  1. She completely missed the emotional health portion of the job, so I will throw it in.Many cops struggle with mental health issues resulting from “exposure to dangerous situations and mentally unstable persons.”   This makes cops more susceptible to suicide and alcohol abuse.  Even with programs to support officers, some officers choose to leave the profession only after a few years.  I can truly say that working in law enforcement isn’t for everyone.Personally, I love this job and am grateful for the chance I have been given to serve my community.  My resilience to the stresses and willingness to accept risk is a direct result of the support I get from those I serve.  The vast majority of the public is pro-law enforcement, but we sometimes forget this because of all the noise made from the other side.

Thank you for reading my opinion on this topic.  You are free to add yours in the comments below.