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Thursday, August 28, 2014

ARE WE FAIR TO POLICEMEN?

The average Patrol Police Officer in the nation makes $52,056.  The per capita income in the U.S. is $28,051, and median household income is $53,046.

No question that the job is stressful, for it is entirely possible that you won't make it home from work.  However, the reality is that fishermen have an on-the-job death rate of 116/100,000, loggers at 91, farmers/ranchers at 41, roofers at 32 and police/sheriff patrol officers at only 19/100,000.  The psychological difference of course is that you are not too concerned about the fish or anyone trying to kill you on a fishing boat, while a patrol officer is mostly under threat.  


Thus, it is understandable that news articles regularly pop up indicating that police officers have high suicide, divorce and alcoholic rates.  According to reliable studies, though:
  • While the suicide rate of 18/100,000 is higher than the 11 for the general population, the truth is that this figure is a little lower than an equivalent population when gender, race and age are factored into the comparison,
  • According to The Badge of Life, police myths are just that.  There are no studies available about police having the highest rates of alcoholism and divorce.  So I found an article that indicates the divorce rate of law enforcement officers is lower than the national average (14.47 versus 16.96).
  • There are also uncertainties about life expectancy, etc.

Why am I reporting all the above?  I initially wanted to gain some sympathy points for police officers.  After all, five years ago I did suggest a Three Strikes and You're Dead law in the Huffington Post.  Saying all that, there is a generalization that our best citizens from high school do not go into this occupation.  Here is a news article delving into Darren Wilson of St. Louis.   
Anyway, that job patrolling our dangerous cities requires a certain judgement, call it stereotyping, if you want, about how to deal with tense situations.  Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, came under fire for claiming that he'd cross the street if he saw "a black kid in a hoodie."  While not a smart thing to say on the heels of Donald Sterling's diatribe, many in our society would nevertheless do the same.  Any oppressed minority population can be a boiling pot of previous miscarriages awaiting justice.  The spark many times is the wrong one, as in Ferguson (Michael Brown was not an innocent, he was a thief carrying his booty) and Los Angeles (Rodney King was already a convicted robber and later died of a cocaine overdose).  There are national figures, Al Sharpton for sure, and extremist organizations, just waiting to jump in to inflame the  issue.  Thus, dedicated officers just doing their job sometimes get engulfed in an aftermath that almost assuredly will ruin their lives.  Click on Why Do People Riot for details.

Since that posting last week, I've noticed that the media overwhelmingly saw the Ferguson issue mostly through rather dark glasses.  There was only one article that was pro-Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown:


Written by Frances Robles of the New York Times, it was indicated that $300,000 was raised to help Wilson relocate his family and defend himself from suits.  Another fundraising on the same crowdfunding site for the Brown family reached $200,000.  At last check, GoFundMe had $420,000 for Wilson.

Robles was the lead reporter for the Miami Herald covering the Trayvon Martin killing when she resided in Florida.  Read about I Have All My Fingernails Intact, which includes her time in a Cuban prison.

Joe Klein of TIME, had a particularly well balanced column in the 1 September 2014 issue:
  • Ferguson was a perfect metaphor for 400 years of oppression.
  • On the one hand, Michael Brown was a gentle giant with no adult criminal record,
  • On the other, Brown's nickname is Bodyguard, and there is a crippling surveillance video where he is seen taking a box of cigarillos from a convenience store and tossed the clerk into a snack display.
  • This robbery occurs 10 minutes before the confrontation with police officer Wilson.
  • Reverend Al Sharpton says the video is an attempt to "smear" the young man.
  • Blacks represent 13% of the population, but commit 50% of the murders in our Nation.  (as terrible as this might be, we live in a relatively safe environment, for here are homicide rates in 2012 per 100,000 by country from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:
    • Honduras  90.4  
    • Venezuela  51.7
    • El Salvador 41.2  (El Salvador was 139 in 1995)
    • Guatemala  39.9
    • South Africa  31.0
    • Columbia  30.8
    • Brazil  25.2
    • Mexico  21.5
    • USA  4.7
    • Canada  1.6
    • China  1.0
    • Sweden  0.7
    • Switzerland  0.6
    • Iceland  0.3
    • Japan  0.3)
                    I might note that most of the the migrant children crossing
                    our border with Mexico come from Honduras, El Salvador,
                    and Guatemala.  But that must be why they leave.
  • Race remains an open wound.
  • Black crime rates are much higher than they were before the civil rights movement.
Klein wrote Primary Colors:  A Novel of Politics, which became a Mike Nichols directed movie (Rotten Tomatoes reviewers rating of 89%) starring John Travolta as  Bill Clinton, although that was not the name used.


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