by Jay Bender
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries list for 2015, I immediately wanted to see where my profession landed on the list. Being a police officer is an inherently dangerous job, so it was certain to be in the Top 10, right? Wrong.
Now, being anywhere on the list of deadliest occupations is not a reassuring proposition, but I was surprised to see that law enforcement actually ranked 18th for workplace fatalities. In 2015, there were 85 deaths in our profession, averaging to 11.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Those statistics included all work-related fatalities, including traffic crashes and homicides. Law enforcement ranked well down on list, after mechanics, maintenance workers, taxi drivers, construction laborers, electricians and roofers. The sad distinction of most dangerous occupations goes to the fishing industry and loggers.
If you consider the working conditions of these occupations, those awful numbers seem all too logical. Nearly all of them involve using heavy equipment, heights, electricity or unpredictable weather conditions. Some involve all of those factors. And yet, when they die, it rarely makes the news. When a police officer dies, whether from an accident or violence, it is a noteworthy event.
The difference? Approximately half of law enforcement deaths were purposely caused by other people, and that kind of murderous intent is difficult for many people to understand. We can accept that a rogue wave or rotten tree can randomly cause a death because we can write that off as fate. It can be harder to comprehend human nature.
A different kind of courage, for a different kind of danger.