Let's Look At What Police Actually Do, By The Numbers

Let's Look At What Police Actually Do, By The Numbers

We got a lot of video footage from police body cameras last Friday. In one of these videos, five officers brutally beat a man to death. For what reason? We still don't actually know. In another, a man took a hammer and, in full view of two police officers, bashed in the head of the then-speaker of the House's husband.

Now, I don't want to go and ruin any elections, but it just does not seem to me that this is all working especially well. It seems like as good a time as any to take a good look at how things are actually going, what the police are actually doing, what effect what they are doing actually has on our personal safety, and, yes, how much we are paying for that.

As such, I thought I would do something a little servicey and run some numbers, just to let the people know exactly how much bang they are getting for their buck (literally, unfortunately).

Two: The percent of violent crimes police actually solve

Four: The percent of police time that is actually devoted to dealing with violent crimes in any capacity

4.4: The percent of calls dispatched to police that have anything to do with violent crimes

Five: The percent of the time that police respond to a 911 call in time to either prevent violence from going down or catch a perpetrator

70,000 to 80,000: The approximate number of people arrested for prostitution every year

$200 million: The cost to taxpayers of arresting people for prostitution every year

170,856: The number of arrests for marijuana possession in 2021

88.8: The percent of time officers in the LA County Sheriff's Department spent on officer-initiated traffic stops

20 million: The estimated number of traffic stops per year

600: The estimated number of people killed at traffic stops since 2017

86: The number of officer involved-killings that started with a traffic violation in 2020

Zero: The effect police density has been found to have on traffic fatalities

1,176: The number of people who were shot and killed by police in 2022

64: The number of police officers fatally shot while on the job in 2022

379: The number officer-involved killings that actually involved a violent crime of some kind

596: The number of officer-involved killings in 2022 that started out as a suspected non-violent crime or a case in which no crime was reported at all

109: People killed by police responding to a mental health call in 2022

54: The percent of officer-involved killings that "were traffic stops, police responses to mental health crises, or situations where the person was not reportedly threatening anyone with a gun" in 2022

Nine: The total number of days without an officer-involved fatality in 2022

Nine: The number of officers who killed people and were charged with a crime in 2022

2.9: The number of times Black people are more likely to be killed by police than white people

2 million: The number of people in US prisons

39: The percent of people in those prisons who are no threat to public safety at all

60,000: The number of juveniles incarcerated in the US at any given time

400,000: The number of people in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime

$215 billion: The amount the US spends on law enforcement and corrections in 2022

$129 billion: The amount spent on policing alone

83: The percent of US counties that increased funding for police departments in 2022

69: The percent of US Americans who "trust local police and law enforcement to promote justice and equal treatment for people of all races."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I do not personally think this is an especially good deal. I can't look at what law enforcement actually does in this country and say that it is worth the money, the lives, or the trauma. I don't think it is something that can be fixed with just a spoonful of sugar and some tweaks here and there. I don't know how much less police have to do to help and how much more they would have to do to hurt that would make people say, "There's got to be a better way!"

I just hope that those who fight so hard to keep things this way are at the very least making an informed decision — that they know what we are getting, they know what we are giving up, and that they feel like it is a fair trade. Because if not, then what the hell are they doing?

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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