clock menu more-arrow no yes

Scott Walker suggested it’s more dangerous to be a cop today. It’s actually much safer.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

On the conservative blog Hot Air, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker mourned the recent tragic killings of police officers in Illinois and Texas, writing, "This isn't the America I grew up in or that I want my children to grow up in. When the very people responsible for keeping us safe are targeted because they are law enforcement officials, we have a serious problem."

Walker, who's running for president, gets this half right. As Washington Post writer Radley Balko pointed out, this is a different America for police than the one Walker grew up in — it's an America where it's much safer to be a cop, and police are much less likely to die on duty.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that on-duty police fatalities in 2014 totaled 117, up from a historic low of 107 in 2013 but down nearly 60 percent from a peak of 280 in 1974 (when Walker was growing up).

The trend seems to be holding this year. The Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police officer deaths, estimates that there have been 83 line-of-duty deaths among police this year — down 2 percent from the same time period in 2014. Gunfire deaths in particular are at 24, down 20 percent from the same time period last year.

But Walker, who cites no statistics in his piece, paints a more negative trend. He writes, "In the last six years under President Obama, we've seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. … This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line for us and hampers their ability to serve the communities that need their help."

The reference to Obama may be a good appeal to Republican primary voters, but it doesn't have much to back it up: Whatever effect "anti-police rhetoric" may have, it doesn't seem pronounced enough to show up in the data.

Watch: Why it's important to film the police

Update: This story was updated with more current fatality numbers for 2013 and 2014.