The above meme caught my eye on social media, posted to the Facebook page of an outfit calling itself Police the Police. The implication is that police officers should not be granted sympathy or any benefit of doubt on account of the dangers they face in the conduct of their duties. After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a list of the top ten most dangerous occupations, and “cop” wasn’t on it.
Of course, in the ongoing debate about law enforcement practices, the relevant consideration isn’t whether police officers have the most dangerous jobs in the world. The issue centers around the type of danger they face.
Apples and oranges are not sufficiently different to call the above meme an apples and oranges comparison. It’s more like an apples and sentient-apples-armed-and-trying-to-kill-you comparison. It’s a difference so stark, even the Huffington Post gets it:
Getting killed is a hazard in many occupations, but there is one glaring difference between death risks of law enforcement officers and those of other dangerous occupations: only police officers face the threat of murder as a part of their job. No one is out trying to kill fisherman or loggers or garbage collectors.
A cop on the street endures daily contact with drunks, the mentally disabled and violent criminals. They endure life-and-death situations on a daily basis.
Exactly. When we talk about the dangers that police face in the conduct of their duties, we’re talking about split-second behavioral shifts which can end lives. That’s the context, not cold labor statistics.
That’s not to say there isn’t a legitimate debate to have about law enforcement practices. There is. But memes like the above one add nothing of substance to it.