Front Page Image

Falling crime rates, but more justifiable homicide by police

Nov 13th, 2014 | By | Category: Features, Front Page


First, the good news.

Violent crime is falling. The estimated number of violent crimes in 2013 was 4.4 percent lower than in 2012. The estimated number of property crimes also fell, by 4.1 percent. (FBI Crime Statistics for 2013)

But the news on justifiable homicide by police, defined as killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, is more troubling. In 2013, there were 461 such deaths, up from 397 in 2010. (FBI Crime in the United States 2013)



Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, Law Enforcement

Year Total
2009 414
2010 397
2011 404
2012 426
2013 461

Frank Serpico, a NYPD detective, was the subject of a 1973 book, later made into a movie starring Al Pacino, about police corruption in New York. Serpico is back, this time with an essay in the Politico Magazine, arguing that the new scourge in city policing is the large number of deaths at the hands of police officers (“The Police Are Still Out of Control,” Oct. 23, 2014). According to Serpico, the police appear to…

just empty their guns and automatic weapons without thinking, in acts of callousness or racism. They act like they’re in shooting galleries. Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates,  has led to a devastating drop in standards.

Serpico offers the following rules to improve the situation:

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals;

2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical;

3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding;

4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;

5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;

6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

Leave Comment