Police officers undoubtedly have a dangerous job. We have represented several officers who were injured or killed in the course of their job. How dangerous is it? Based on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forbes lists the top ten most dangerous jobs in America:
1. Logging workers
2. Fishers and related fishing workers
3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers
5. Structural iron and steel workers
6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors
7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers
9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
10. Construction laborers
Forbes does not even have the job of law enforcement officer in the top ten most dangerous. AOL Business Insider has a different list, placing the job of law enforcement officer at tenth most dangerous, with 21.8 fatalities per 100,000 in 2007, behind the professions of fisher, logger, pilot, steel worker, farmer, roofer, electrical lineman, driver, and garbage collector.
But when a law enforcement officer is killed on the job, most of the time he or she is killed by a “bad guy,” right? Wrong. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Traffic accidents have exceeded gunfire as the leading cause of police on-duty deaths for 14 of the past 15 years.” The Chronicle explains:
A 2011 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study of 733 fatal police crashes found half involved only the officer-driven vehicle. Forty-two percent of the officers who died didn’t have their seat belts on. “It’s ironic that police officers present the greatest dangers to themselves as they try to help the public,” said Pat Tobin, a retired San Francisco police motorcycle supervisor who lectures on officer safety. “But honestly, that is the case.”
After more than 20 years representing families of people killed or injured by police, my gut tells me that it is much more dangerous to be a young person of color in a California city like Oakland, Greenfield, or San Jose, or in the Detroit area, or any other American city. Or a mentally ill person in any city in California – like Vacaville, Richmond, or Salinas.
We need to provide our law enforcement officers with the resources and training to make their jobs safer. We also need to enforce the highest law of the land – the Constitution – so that no one is above the law, and everyone is safer.