There is this thing called the internet meme - a viral phenomenon that transmits behaviors from one culture to another. Television, print, internet, films - they all carry ideas far and wide. Police cultures from one country to another are no different.
Is it possible that police shootings of civilians is one of those memes in police culture?
In You In Blue we did not write about the number of civilians shot by police, but we did discover 48 police officers were shot and killed last year. That is three times lower than a few decades ago. It raises a question: Have the numbers of people killed by police also declined? Actually, it seems the opposite.
One report by the Bureau of Justice Administration suggests about 500 to 700 people are shot by police, often in encounters on the street during crimes in progress.The Guardian newspaper finds that by July of this year alone over 500 people have been fatally shot by police, suggesting the numbers are increasing.
Sadly, we have no idea if that is beyond what normally happens. With over 750,000 police officers in a country of over 350 million we have no idea whether that is beyond the “average”, if such an average even exists!
MIGRATION INTO CANADA?
I had a cursory look at Canadian police shootings for the past decade and made an interesting discovery. Unsurprisingly the Canadian rate is considerably less than the U.S. rate. With fewer handguns it stands to reason there will be fewer incidents of police confronting armed suspects.
What was surprising was the uptick in Canadian police-civilian shooting deaths over the past few years. Ten years ago it rarely rose above 5 per year for the whole country! (California, slightly larger than Canada’s population, has over 90 this year alone).
But five years ago the Canadian numbers started to increase - 7 in 2010 and 21 in 2014. By July this year that number was already 17, nowhere the U.S. rate but still alarming.
Are these increases just a blip on the statistical radar screen? Or are Canadian cops influenced by happenings with their U.S. counterparts?
Our final chapter in You In Blue is on The Warrior Agenda. To the Combat Cops in combat cop culture, “warrior ways” is an appealing meme. To the rest of us it is a nightmare. Is it moving north?