Mailvox: the thin, blue, and not very bright line

A police officer responds to today’s column on public pensions:

Some public pension systems are over the top. Here in Oregon, most public employees contribute nothing to their pension funds. When I was a police officer in SoCal, my pension fund was a contract. I contributed so much per paycheck and it was matched by the public entity I worked for. Periodic raises and benefits were negotiated without threat of strike or public demonstration.

I chose police work because I liked it. No one held a gun at my back and said be a cop. Just as no one held a gun at another man’s back and told him to be a carpenter. You accept the good and bad as with any profession. As far as my pension is concerned, it is subject to the same cutbacks as any pension system would be given the current economic downturn. Plus, I pay for any increase in medical premiums for me and my spouse, just as millions of other retirees do.

Lastly, to make the statement about police officers not risking their lives like a Marine in Afganistan shows your ignorance. A police officer is under the gun every single day he or she is on the job. Every time you knock on a door, you do not know who or what is on the other side. Statistics show it. People can do four years in the Marines and never hear a shot fired in anger. I suspect that you, Mr. Day were never in the military and have never worked a shift in a patrol car. How pathetic.

To which I responded thusly: “It would appear that police work doesn’t require much in the way of mathematics or logic. If you believe being a policeman is more dangerous than being a combat soldier in a war zone, you clearly don’t know the first thing about statistics. In any case, no amount of potential danger justifies being paid over $100k per year for not working. Especially when there is no money to pay for the non-delivery of services.”

Our police friend makes a massive error of basic logic by comparing all HYPOTHETICAL police danger to ACTUAL Marine Corps combat zone danger. It’s true that some Marines can serve four years and never hear a shot fired in anger, but most police serve their entire career and never hear one either. I would have thought this was obvious, but since it might benefit our enbadged protectors to have it spelled out slowly for them, I shall herewith do so.

800,000: Total number of US police officers
126: Number of US police officers “killed” in the line of duty in 2009.

70,000: Total number of US troops in Afghanistan
318: Number of US troops killed in Afghanistan in 2009

Obviously, a police officer is 28.8 times less likely to be “killed” in the line of duty than a soldier is to be killed while stationed in a combat zone. Furthermore, the reason that I put quotes around the term “killed” is that barely half the police “killed” were, in fact, purposefully killed by anyone. The 126 number includes heart attacks, car accidents, and even one entitled “accidental” which could be anything from slipping in the shower to autoerotica gone awry. The comparable number is actually 58, which means that the average soldier currently faces 62.7X more risk of death than does the average policeman.

I don’t think the “danger” argument is one that police would be wise to utilize in order to justify why they are paid so much more in salary and pension plans than America’s soldiers.