First, this isn’t the late 1960s. By noting that Brian Moore is the fifth NYPD officer shot since December, both Cohen and Green imply that police officers today operate in an increasingly dangerous environment. That just isn’t true. I’ve made this point many times over the last few years, but the job of policing has been getting progressively safer since the mid-1990s, and today is as safe as it has ever been. About half as many cops are killed on the job today as in 1968, despite the fact that there are significantly more cops on the street. So far this year, 10 U.S. police officers have been killed by gunfire. That puts us on pace for 29 by the end of the year. That would be the lowest raw number in well more than half a century. And again, once you factor in the increase in the number of cops overall, the drop in the homicide rate among cops is even more dramatic. To put all of this into perspective, here’s a figure I pulled from the Fatal Encounters database of people killed by law enforcement: While 10 cops have been killed by gunfire across the entire country so far in 2015, police in Los Angeles County alone have killed 14 people over the exact same period.
There are lots of other reasons why the 1968 comparison is off. The crime rate was much higher in 1968 than it is today. Here’s a mind-blowing statistic: There were 500 fewer overall murders in 2013 than there were in 1969, despite the fact that the population increased by 115 million people. And while Green tries to contrast Nixon’s tough-on-crime agenda with that of bleeding heart reformers, it’s worth noting that crime continued to go up through both of Nixon’s terms. Homicides continued to climb until 1974 and 1975 before dropping, then soaring again in the 1980s. The all-time homicide high came in 1991, after 11 years with a Republican in the White House.
More stats: In 2013, there were nearly 9,000 fewer homicides, about 27,000 fewer rapes, and about 368,000 fewer aggravated assaults than there were in 1991, even though the country’s population increased by 64 million people.