There Was No War on Cops in 2015

December 31st 2015

Kyle Jaeger

In spite of chatter about 2015 being a particularly dangerous year for police officers in the U.S., the data show that it was actually one of the safest on record. 

Amid national debates over the need for criminal justice reform — with an emphasis on policing practices — there were many who claimed that the repeated protests over fatal police shootings had roused public anger that put uniformed officers at greater risk of violence.

RELATED: The Disturbing Number of People Killed By Police Each Day in 2015

But while there was arguably increased criticism of police, that did not translate into increased attacks on officers. In fact, there were only 38 gun-related deaths for U.S. police officers in 2015. That's the second-lowest number since 1870, according to annual law enforcement fatality data from the Officer Down Memorial Page. The safest, documented year for officers was 2013.

police deaths

"Gun-related police deaths in the U.S. per one million population were about 6 times higher in the 1970s (0.674 in 1971) and 14-17 times higher during America’s War on Alcohol (Prohibition), when it was as high as 1.55 per one million in 1921 (the first full year of the War on Beer)," Mark Perry, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote

These statistics are supported by data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, an organization that provides information about firearm-related police deaths. Their most recent report shows that the number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015 was down by 20 from the previous year. Again, only 2013 was safer.

The perception of greater risk for police.

The perception of 2015 as more dangerous for U.S. police officers is likely due to the fact that police departments across the country have been pushed into the spotlight in the aftermath of controversial police shootings, including those caught on video and released to the public this year, such as the killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago.

BREAKING: Here's the video of Laquan McDonald's shooting death that the City of Chicago didn't want you to see. (WARNING: Graphic content).Disturbing details here: http://bit.ly/1NO3Yl0

Posted by ATTN: on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

There have been more videos — some captured on dash cam, others caught on a bystanders' cell phone — of fatal police shootings throughout the country. (On the other hand, these videos contributed to a sense of frustration among criminal justice reform advocates and, particularly, Black Lives Matter activists who've made a point of raising awareness to instances of racial injustice in American policing.)

In the end, it was a relatively safe year for police. However, if you turn the camera around, you'll find that at least 975 people were shot dead by officers in 2015. If you look deeper, you'll find that at least 37 of those who were fatally shot were also Black and unarmed.

RELATED: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown & Police Brutality: Are We At A Tipping Point?

"Unfortunately, public policy tends to be shaped by the less accurate question — how people believe things are trending outside of their immediate surroundings," the Washington Post reported. "Naturally, we rely on what we read and see on TV to form our opinions about what we haven’t experienced directly. And what we see on TV will naturally be the bad stuff that happened, not good news about the bad stuff that didn’t happen."