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What About the Lives Saved?

About 70 unarmed people are shot to death each year by U.S. law enforcement officers, deputies, troopers and agents, to judge by a Washington Post database.

It would not surprise me if officers here in Wheeling have saved that many lives during the past few years.

Digest that for a moment, then I’ll explain.

First, the 70-per-year figure is shaky — because there doesn’t seem to be an official database of deaths at law enforcement hands. The Post began compiling its own on Jan. 1, 2015. In five and a half years, the paper has documented 5,417 deaths of people shot by law enforcement personnel.

By my count from the database, 375 of those deaths involved unarmed people. Trouble is, a significant number of the database entries didn’t specify whether the person killed was armed. The number could be higher.

Still, at a time when law enforcement personnel as a group are being condemned by some, it’s worth thinking about the balance sheet.

Are cops dangerous? Or are they of real value in preventing crime, getting bad actors off the street — and saving lives?

Occasionally, I glance at activity reports from the Wheeling Police Department. With distressing frequency, there are overdose calls — people who took too much of the wrong drug and ended up in very real peril. Cops often are the first people on the scene. Here, as in many other towns, they can administer Naloxone to counteract certain drugs.

How many lives have they saved that way?

Domestic disturbances are another frequent visitor to police and sheriff’s department activity logs. Frequently, the mere appearance of cops and deputies is enough to make an abuser stop. Sometimes, arrests have to be made.

Had the thin blue line not stood between a victim and his or her abuser, how far would the violence have gone?

How many lives saved, there?

How many children, by the way, rescued from unspeakable abuse by the cops (and Child Protective Services workers)?

How many drunken driving deaths have police prevented by arresting intoxicated motorists?

How many lives saved by drug raids? How many shootings prevented by arresting people in illegal possession of firearms?

The list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong. We all know there are a few genuine villains in law enforcement uniforms. Anyone who has watched the sickening George Floyd video knows that.

They need to be found and kicked out of the profession. There are many good cops who want that as badly as anyone.

Let’s not put targets on their backs. We may need them sometime — badly.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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