There’s been a 90 percent drop in ambush killings of officers since 1970. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 13 per 100,000 police officers died on the job in 2017. Compare that to farmers (24 deaths per 100,000), truck drivers (26.9 per 100,000), and trash collectors (34.9 per 100,000). But police academies and field training officers hammer home the risk of violent death to officers again and again.
It’s not just training and socialization, though: The very nature of the job reinforces the sense of fear and threat. Law enforcement isn’t called to people’s homes and streets when things are going well. Officers constantly find themselves thrown into situations where a seemingly normal interaction has gone haywire — a marital argument devolving into domestic violence, for example.
“For them, any scene can turn into a potential danger,” says Eugene Paoline III, a criminologist at the University of Central Florida. “They’re taught, through their experiences, that very routine events can go bad.”