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“Being a cop is less dangerous than…”

With the recent focus on the rising, media-induced tensions between certain radical elements of the population and police, a time-worn cliché has once again reared it’s illogical, ugly head. The old canard goes something like this: “Being a cop is safe. More people are killed in crab fishing than in law enforcement.” I have yet to see this silly line of “logic” applied to other jobs in which the employee bears arms in the course of their duties. You don’t hear people say “being a Marine in a combat zone is safer than crossing the street, because more people die crossing the street than die as Marines in a combat zone”. The massive logical error people make is in only using fatalities as the metric for determining how dangerous something is. In reality, the risk of being killed is only one facet of what makes a profession dangerous. In 2012, nationwide, there was a staggering total of 52,901 assaults on law enforcement, of which almost 15,000 of which resulted in injury. That breaks down to 10 of every 100 officers nationwide. And that is just for ONE YEAR. 29% of officers assaulted without weapons were injured and 24% of officers assaulted WITH weapons were injured. That’s more than 25,000 people injured, some very seriously. (Source: FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2012).

In crab fishing (or any other physically dangerous profession) there are inherent physical risks that can be planned for and controlled. A line attached to a heavy crab pot snaking across the deck as the trap descends into the sea is dangerous, but it can be planned for and avoided. You KNOW what is going to happen when the pot goes in the water. In other dangerous jobs there can be safety mechanisms put in place, as well as procedures (“lock out, tag out”), fail safe systems, etc… Electrical workers, which count for a high percentage of work related deaths annually, are another oft-cited example of jobs that are “more dangerous”. But again, logic demands a deeper look than just what the raw fatality numbers provide.

Electrocution occurs when a person comes into contact with electrical current. That is an environmental factor that can be controlled. If a work site it set up properly and safety rules are strictly observed, no one will come into contact with high voltage. Accordingly, they will then not be electrocuted. The variable that causes death or serious injury in this environment is therefore subject to the actions of the workers on the site. Deaths in these fields occur as a result of a failure to follow these protocols on some level. They are preventable. In law enforcement, following protocols does not guarantee that you walk away unhurt. In law enforcement, the level of danger is high specifically because the primary medium of interaction with the work involves people, who are inherently unpredictable and can choose to actively resist control.

When a crab fisherman goes below decks and takes a meal break, he doesn’t have to worry that somebody will come up behind him as he stands waiting for his food and shoot him in the back of the head simply because he is a crab fisherman.  A “dead” electrical line cannot make a snap decision to electrify itself and kill the worker holding it. However, a seemingly compliant person can smile as they draw and fire a gun over a “minor” traffic violation.  An elderly man who looks like a kindly grandfather can open fire with a rifle and kill a father and husband after being stopped for a misdemeanor traffic infraction. And most times the officers involved can’t tell the difference until the threat has materialized.  Many times, by that point, it’s too late.  There is no “lockout/tagout” that readily and easily indicates a domestic scene is safe and guarantees that the participants won’t try to shoot you in the face.

Nobody sits around recording crab fisherman as they go to work and then posts videos on Youtube decrying the manner in which they do their job. Nobody gets in the face of an electrician as he does his job trying to provoke him into reacting in a way that will cause the public to demean his entire profession.  Nobody who is a crab fisherman hesitates to quickly take an action that will keep him from getting killed because in the back of his mind he thinks about the legal ramifications of protecting himself because of public outcry and witch hunts over what he does to protect himself. Law enforcement is an inherently dangerous and unique profession that cannot realistically be compared with other jobs when it comes to the “danger” factor, except for perhaps cab drivers and other jobs that require direct contact with shady people. The true measure of “danger” lies in the amount of risks that you cannot control.


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