The Human Consequence of Ignoring Violence
April 25, 2021
by Sean Kullman
Photo by EV on Unsplash
It was the first time I saw my father busted up. He was a Philadelphia Police Officer working undercover when a perpetrator of a crime hit him square in the face and splattered his nose. He had stitches and the ensuing black-eyes that come with such a hit.
I was somewhere around the age of 12 when this incident happened, but I remember it clearly. He was working the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift when he rolled into our house in the early morning hours with a bandage on his face. He tapped my mom on the shoulder and said, “I broke my nose.” Being the type of man who likes to joke around quite a bit, one never really knows if he’s pulling your leg or not. My mother, still trying to sleep, said, “Go to bed.” But when she turned to look at him, she saw the bandaged face and the discoloration around it. It was also the first time I really knew the dangers of my father’s job: learning later about car chases and other confrontations that led to armed suspects and seriously dangerous situations most of us will never experience.
As some of the summer protests (over the killing of George Floyd) turned violent, I watched on television as two police officers in full riot-gear subdued an apparently violent protestor. One officer placed his knee on the neck of the subject and the second officer tapped the knee of the first officer and leaned toward his partner. Without hearing what was said, it was fairly clear: move your knee. The exchange took place in seconds and the officer moved his knee in the midst of a melee that placed the lives of law-enforcement and civilians in danger. I was impressed with the swiftness of communication in the midst of something that placed the two men in danger, as molotov cocktails, guns, bricks, and other instruments became part of some summer protests in cities across the country. The arrests, the protests, and its consequences always lead me to the same place. What does the data tell us?
Every time I review the data regarding violent deaths, there is one constant: Boys and men, overwhelmingly, are the victims of violent crime and deaths. The statistics are unquestionable and include civilians, law-enforcement, and people engaged in criminal activities.
While many think about the death of George Floyd, I find myself thinking about the lives of George Floyd and Officer Chauvin before the confrontation that led to one man’s death and another man’s incarceration. I also think of Officers Jeffrey Wittstruck and Eric Talley whose deaths in March of 2021 left their families with an emptiness comparable to the one George Floyd’s loved ones feel. Our nation must openly assess the death of Adam Toledo. Why was a 13-year-old boy running the streets at 2:30 a.m. with a firearm? Did the officer chasing an armed suspect feel his life was in danger? Whenever a person is killed, we must ask ourselves, how did this happen? How can we have the types of conversations that lead to real change?
These questions must be pursued if justice and virtue in a moral and ethical sense can ever prevail. These types of questions allow us to devote ourselves to uncensored truths by looking at a variety of data. Although many want to blame police officers and violent criminals, our nation must look more deeply at the underlying conditions of our society and the results. Boys and men are facing unprecedented challenges in schools, careers, family life, and community. I encourage all of us to place our biases aside. To look at the data and challenge the rhetoric that takes us away from one of our nation’s significant challenges. Why are boys and men over-represented victims and perpetrators of violent deaths and crime? This question cannot be answered in one essay, but it is something GIBM is moving closer toward as we analyze data and share it with the public. I am comfortable saying there has been a war against boys for some time, and we are witnessing the consequences of the interminable guilt imposed on men and its combustible impact on society.
Although our focus in this piece places an overarching emphasis on boys and men in general, we continue to examine race data as well as other data sets to provide a more transparent review.
Data from the FBI reveals there were 404,236 violent crime arrests in 2017 and 392,562 violent crime arrests in 2018. Males accounted for 81.1% of the violent crime arrests over that two year period, and they represented 95% of those killed by police. Of the 1,977 male and female deaths at the hands of police over the course of two years, 98% of those killed were armed and 95% were male according to our analysis of data from the Washington Post.
The Human Consequences of not Acknowledging Violence
Over the same two year period, 199 police officers were killed in the line of duty, and 99 of those deaths were the result of police officers feloniously killed. Male officers represented 87.5% of police officers and accounted for 94% of those deaths in 2017 and 2018:
91 officers were killed by guns
7 officers were killed by a vehicle used as a weapon
1 officer was killed by a knife
The remaining 100 were killed in the line of duty in car accidents and other types of accidental encounters.
While police shootings are under heightened criticism in most major news cycles, homicide-deaths to police-shooting-deaths are nearly 15:1. According to some data, that ratio is likely even higher.
As 2020 and 2021 shape up to be some of the worst years of gun deaths and other violent deaths and crimes, we are confronted by some social reactions I fear will only increase our vulnerabilities. Defunding the police will likely result in more male and female deaths. It is a reality that must be addressed through data-analysis and policy actions that lead to more funding that prepares and allows police officers to engage in more hands-on training they can take to their daily interactions. It is certainly right to argue the merits of potential forms of bias. Those arguments can take place without compromising the essential training officers need to use in the field to protect themselves and others as well as the necessary conversations that come with them.
Similar to the one I watched as two officers in riot-gear managed a situation that did not lead to serious injury or death to the person being subdued or the officers.
Unlike the actions that lead to the killings of George Floyd, Officers Wittstruck and Talley, and the incarceration of Derek Chauvin.
As our nation morns the loss of many people whose untimely deaths trouble us, our policies and actions must address the larger consequences of ignoring the facts. We've gone terribly wrong in the way we dismiss the biological realities and social displacement of our nation's sons and the men they long to become.
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