In terms of safety and survival, where would you consider yourself safer – in the hands of a law enforcement officer or the hands of a medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse? I ask this because, I find astounding, the report that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, a reported 251,454 people died as a result of a medical error – more than a quarter of a million people. Not all of these deaths happened at a time when a medical professional was making a split-second, life-or-death decision, but rather diagnostic errors, carelessness, and mix-ups were often to blame.
Now let’s look at law enforcement in this country, which receives an estimated 240 million 911 calls a year. That’s a lot of contact with the public, victims and perps. In 2012, officers made more than 12.1 million arrests. In 410 arrests, the use of deadly force resulted in someone’s death, that’s .03 percent of all arrests made.
No one wants to see anyone hurt or killed in an encounter with a law enforcement officer. Every life does matter. But I must stop and wonder, with 240 million calls to 911, law enforcement officers make a lot of contact with a lot of people, and that’s not including law enforcement encounters that involve probation and parole checks. Law enforcement officers aren’t harming or killing people intentionally, nor are medical professionals, yet there is this extreme outrage toward officers and a mere shrug of the shoulders about the medical mistakes that are claiming lives at a far higher rate.
Given the number of encounters law enforcement officers have with the public, police are doing a fantastic job across this country. Police error? Yes, it happens. Medical errors, yes, they happen. Why is one profession attacked while the other held in high esteem. One carries a gun, one carries a scalpel – both kill, one apparently at a higher rate than the other. Let’s recognize the dangerous work police officers do and the dangerous people they are called upon to protect the public from.