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You’re Eight Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist

12160 – by Jim Harper, CATO

It got a lot of attention this morning when I tweeted, “You’re Eight Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist.” It’s been quickly retweeted dozens of times, indicating that the idea is interesting to many people. So let’s discuss it in more than 140 characters.

In case it needs saying: Police officers are unlike terrorists in almost all respects. Crucially, the goal of the former, in their vastest majority, is to have a stable, peaceful, safe, law-abiding society, which is a goal we all share. The goal of the latter is … well, it’s complicated. I’ve cited my favorite expert on that, Audrey Kurth Cronin, here and here and here. Needless to say, the goal of terrorists is not that peaceful, safe, stable society.

I picked up the statistic from a blog post called: “Fear of Terror Makes People Stupid,” which in turn cites the National Safety Council for this and lots of other numbers reflecting likelihoods of dying from various causes. So dispute the number(s) with them, if you care to.

I take it as a given that your mileage may vary. If you dwell in the suburbs or a rural area, and especially if you’re wealthy, white, and well-spoken, your likelihood of death from these two sources probably converges somewhat (at very close to zero).

The point of the quote is to focus people on sources of mortality society-wide, because this focus can guide public policy efforts at reducing death. (Thus, the number is not a product of the base rate fallacy.) In my opinion, too many people are still transfixed by terrorism despite the collapse of Al Qaeda over the last decade and the quite manageable—indeed, the quite well-managed—danger that terrorism presents our society today.

If you want to indulge your fears and prioritize terrorism, you’ll have plenty of help, and neither this blog post nor any other appeal to reason or statistics is likely to convince you. Among the John Mueller articles I would recommend, though, is “Witches, Communists, and Terrorists: Evaluating the Risks and Tallying the Costs” (with Mark Stewart).

If one wants to be clinical about what things reduce death to Americans, one should ask why police officers are such a significant source of danger. I have some ideas.

Cato’s work on the War on Drugs shows how it produces danger to the public and law enforcement both, not to mention loss of privacy and civil liberties, disrespect for law enforcement, disregard of the rule of law, and so on. Is the sum total of mortality and morbidity reduced or increased by the War on Drugs? I don’t know to say. But the War on Drugs certainly increases the danger to innocent people (including law enforcement personnel), where drug legalization would allow harm to naturally concentrate on the people who choose unwisely to use drugs.

The militarization of law enforcement probably contributes to the danger. Cato’s Botched Paramilitary Police Raids map illustrates the problem of over-aggressive policing. Cato alumRadley Balko now documents these issues at the Huffington Post. Try out his “Cop or Soldier?” quiz.

There are some bad apples in the police officer barrel. Given the power that law enforcement personnel have—up to and including the power to kill—I’m not satisfied that standards of professionalism are up to snuff. You can follow the Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project on Twitter at @NPMRP.

If the provocative statistic cited above got your attention, that’s good. If it adds a little more to your efforts at producing a safe, stable, peaceful, and free society, all the better.

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12 Responses to You’re Eight Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist

  1. NC says:

    From the picture of the guy above, I don’t think he could shoot his way out of a paper bag or his mask. lol

    But it’s definitely true. You’d be more likely to get harassed by a cop than a terrorist as well as get shot by a cop as opposed to a terrorist. The bullshit fearmongering propaganda that DHS puts out is absurd.

    I’ve been talking to a lot of people today who (surprisingly to me because I thought they were not awake) also believe HAARP and that our government had something to do with the Hurricane and are also not buying the bullshit election. They all know that whoever wins, we lose and that by 2013, our country will be screwed. Like Henry says, it’s time to speak out and take back our communications and gather as many like-minded people as we can to protect ourselves when the time comes.

  2. Joe says:

    Firstly, it’s doubtful that there are ANY human beings on the earth that would self-identify as terrorists. Somebody the DHS or maybe Audrey or #1 NWO Hatr would call a terrorist probably goes to sleep at night thinking they are fighting either for their own well-being, or that of their country or loved-ones, i.e. they want a peaceful,stable,safe society for themselves.

    Going further, pretty much the whole paradigm of US foreign policy these days is doing, and supporting those who do, all kinds of terrifying stuff all over the planet in the name of a peaceful, stable, safe society for themselves (or perhaps only for big business nowadays, but anyway…). And of course, the USA isn’t a terrorist organization, is it? It’s a state-actor with an enormous agenda.

    So, I challenge the author or anyone quoted by the author to get a first-hand statement from any person, without duress, to the effect that they don’t ultimately desire a peaceful, stable, and safe society for themselves and their loved-ones. Their means to that might include violence, but I’m talking about the end state here. And not believing that it’s possible also doesn’t count. Nihilists aren’t terrorists at all, generally they’re all talk.

    And if there’s a story where it’s reported that “Terrorist group XYZ took credit for ABC bombing” I’d likely take that with a grain of salt, as well. Who exactly took credit and how did they do it, and whether they were drugged or under duress at the time, and of course, is there any evidence that they could’ve done it.

    Dunno if anybody remembers the various sets of serial killings over the years, which certainly caused terror in themselves, but all kinds of people would take credit for them back then. The police would almost universally refuse to convict them on their claims, and send them away, often after asking a few simple, yet not-generally-known facts about the crime.

    So, I’m having problems with one of the premises of the story, although I totally agree with the basic premise. You’re more likely to be killed by a cop, mainly because there might be close to an infinite numerical ratio of cops to actual terrorists. Are you getting that “legitimate” terrorists are more rare than unicorns? That’s what I’m saying.

    At this point, there isn’t one person who has made a fulsome uncoerced confession to doing terrorist acts in the USA without such marvellous things as well-documented FBI assistance, and without torture or drugs helping them say what was needed politically. But I’d happily welcome a rebuttal on that statement.

    This premise that “Fear of terror makes people stupid” is pretty powerful, since terror and fear are degrees of the same thing, and fear of fear itself is a pretty sad state of affairs for a person or society.

    But I think the chief insidious principle which enables the “War on Terror”, enables the whole world to declare war on what amounts to a military tactic (terrorism) is the belief that it is real, strong, and growing. The enabling belief is that this “other” who doesn’t want ultimate peace and stability actually exists and wants to hurt the rest of the innocent world at large. As soon as that belief exists in the population, the authorities can seize greater control on that premise. It’s been like that for thousands of years.

    Here’s my criteria for a “real” terrorist, i.e. someone who’s not an FBI patsy, or some arm of the military-industrial-complex dressed up like a terrorist.

    1. They must commit violence for political aims in the US, and it must be legally proven that it was them doing it
    2. They must be ultimately caught alive (otherwise how do we know it was them doing it?)
    3. They must be found guilty of doing it by due-process of law
    4. They must have no connection with the FBI, or any other part of the government or external contracting agency.
    5. They must not be an agent for a state-based foreign-entity, as then they’d simply be a soldier, or a spy, committing an act of war.

    Without these criteria, any violent act can be blamed on “terrorists” and any government reaction can be justified.

    Few people remember WWII clearly, but my parents did, and they always said that the wartime government was constantly telling them NOT to worry. At that point, the enemy was very real. By contrast, nowadays, the government and media do little but tell the populace HOW and WHEN to worry. What does that say about the realism of the enemy nowadays?

    • NC says:

      “What does that say about the realism of the enemy nowadays?”

      It says the enemy is not real?

      If that’s the case, then yes the “terror boogeyman” is not real, but the terrorists orchestrating the fake terror and corruption in our government and military industrial complex are definitely real.

      • diggerdan says:

        You sound like something I would say NC, LOL

      • Joe says:

        “but the terrorists orchestrating the fake terror and corruption in our government and military industrial complex are definitely real”

        Sure they are. Somebody must be making things blow up now and then, and killing innocents. And my assertion is that the perpetrators must also go to bed thinking they are fighting the good fight, doing the right thing, following orders and acting with brilliant aplomb and creativity in an immensely complex chess-game.

        Either they think they are fighting for a better future by doing these heinous deeds, or they’re not sane, right?

        Sadly, if these people were taken to task and forced to defend themselves before a jury I’d be willing to bet that they’d excuse themselves by one or more of the following:

        1. Just following orders
        2. Thought it made sense at the time
        3. Really believed they were doing good
        4. “Big Picture” so intricately complex that outsiders can’t possibly understand the real motives, and methods, which are obviously good, but secret.

        But none of these should be a valid defense for plain ordinary murder.

    • BentSpear says:

      “The police would almost universally refuse to convict them on their claims, and send them away, often after asking a few simple, yet not-generally-known facts about the crime.”

      When we had LEO that actually had a thought process that wasn’t connected to a trigger. Talk about something as rare as unicorns…..

  3. # 1 NWO Hatr says:

    Actually, I thought 8 times more likely sounded like a lowball figure.

    I would have thought more in the neighborhood of 80 times more likely.

    • Joe says:

      High enough to make people think, but low enough to seem plausible to those who believe that actual terrorists are fairly common occurrences.

      I agree 80 is way better. Maybe even 8 million.

      The trend is slowly approaching 100%, at least overseas that those killed by authorities are then retroactively declared to have been “terrorists” THEMSELVES. Just like all the incidentally dead Vietnamese were automatically “VC”.

      I don’t think any US soldier within the last 5-8 years would admit to shooting anybody who wasn’t a “terrorist” or a “Taliban”.

      Does being retroactively branded a terrorist after being shot by police or soldiers mean that you were killed by terrorism, i.e. by being a terrorist? To be fair, we must count the terrorists themselves, as rare in actual fact as they may be, as victims of terrorism as well, no?

      When the new miniature-scale drone-deployed guided munitions come into vogue, along with armed drones deployed in the US, I’m waiting to see the tactic of converting unsuspecting citizens into “militia-patriot-suicide-bombers” on cue and as needed politically.

      Simply pop off a munition into an unsuspecting-but-known-to-authorities person in a crowd, it hits them and explodes, and the aftermath-instant-backstory shows them as having been a fanatical suicide-bomber who regrettably couldn’t be stopped before the fact.

      It works very well, since if anyone twigs that it was a government 10 pound Saber mini-missile or similar, the backstory can morph into “Oh, well, we were targetting him with a minimal-footprint weapon but we glitched and we regrettably hit him in a crowded area. Thank god for these tiny munitions or the whole city block would be gone, eh? We are really winning now!”

      And if nobody twigs, and political expedience warrants, they can just say he was a suicide bomber and go after his family or group.

      So of course his family and friends can be arrested and detained under NDAA by association and support, and it’s totally justified. “Hooray we must be winning now; we got ‘em all!”

  4. policy enforcers work for the Zionazi TERRORISTS who PRINT the POLICY …..with the currency…

    the only source of BAD FAITH = TERRORISM =

    POLICY…….. [JEWISH] …..don’t believe it ?

    THE LAW is not “Jewish” policy….

    did anyone read the words criminal justice in the “CONSTITUTION”….?

    but what is the Truth …….?

  5. TranceAm says:

    Observed a traffic stop yesterday. In particular the cop positioning himself in the situation for something as slight as a traffic violation.
    The cop was slightly behind the driver, and the hand constantly above his gun, in an old fashioned John Wayne gun slinger position. The cop was seemingly at the OK Coral, ready to pull on any indication of the/a potential bad action of a bad guy, but from a back shooter position. Very weird. Since drivers aren’t allowed to come out of a car, to face the cop.

    I don’t know whether this positioning is training, or a coward streak of the cop in question, disguised as survival technique with the most chance of surviving..

    As I said very weird, since I don’t live in a town with the thug relationship of cops with the population of a New York.

  6. CW Orange says:

    A few cogent facts about where power lies in the USA. So you seriously think American citizens can be controlled if they are not so inclined? Consider the following statistics for a moment….

    313 million people in the US
    An estimated 90 guns per 100 people
    282 million guns=313,000,000*.9= 281,700,000 Guns

    3140 counties in US
    64 parishes in louisiana
    27 burroughs in alaska
    —->3231 counties/boroughs/parishes in the US

    1.431 million military
    —->4466 military men per county/borough/parish if distributed= 1,431.400/ 3231 counties =442 military men per county
    —-> 96,874 citizens average to the county/borough/parish 282 million armed citizens/3231 counties=87,279 armed men per county average

    —->87,279 armed citizens to 442 military men per county

    Raw guns 282,000,000 / 1,431,000= 197 armed civilians to 1 military gun…

    Police number about 800,000 countrywide.
    Counting police and military together yields about 2.2 million.
    If they face the citizens together, there are 128 citizen guns facing each man in each county in the USA.

    When you look at these odds, of 128 armed civilians for every armed lawman or military man it becomes obvious that even if the government bought 450 million rounds they are still seriously outgunned.

    Even a .22LR will kill a person, and even if you have a large caliber gun with a flak jacket, are you going to walk into 128 citizens shooting at each one of you? I ask this question because most of the people I know believe that going up against someone like this, you should shoot for the balls. So, what are the odds you will not get hit in the nuts?

    In 2009 American citizens bought 14 million guns….I mention this because it is not real clear if they were counted in the statistics.

    The silent majority is usually silent. That does not mean it is a good idea to wake them up and piss them off…
    If even 20% of us (56 Million) get angry enough to want to pick up a gun and use it on two legged mentally challenged offical annoyances, it is going to be a bad day for those who think Americans can be controlled by force of arms in the hands of an out of control government.
    So, Make Our Day, Punks!

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