It’s now clear that Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz — the Fox Lake, Illinois, police officer whose death captured national headlines in September — was not a hero gunned down in the line of duty. Investigators revealed this week that he had been stealing and laundering public money from a youth mentor program for seven years, and took his own life in what they called a “carefully staged suicide” because he feared his scheme would be discovered.
As the official account of the officer’s death and full scope of his embezzlement plot continues to unfold — and becomes increasingly twisted — the heartbroken Fox Lake community has turned on Gliniewicz. To them, he’s now a villain.
This puts a number of pundits and politicians in an awkward spot. Immediately after Gliniewicz’s death, many seized on reports that he’d been brutally ambushed, Radley Balko points out in The Washington Post. They took to the airwaves and Internet to blame the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups calling for police reform, arguing that Gliniewicz — a loving husband and father of four who was revered in his community — was the latest tragic casualty of a so-called “war on cops.”
Here’s what we’re hearing from them now:
Don’t hold your breath for an about-face. Even though initial reports indicated that Gliniewicz appeared to have been shot by a trio of assailants — which sparked a massive manhunt — the anti-police reform spin these people put on the story never had any factual basis. Perhaps it makes sense that they’re now not rushing to explain how they got this case so wrong, and what it means for their narrative.
But a look at the data reveals that this year is actually shaping up to be one of the safest on record for police.
A total of 31 officers have been killed by nonaccidental gunfire so far this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that tracks more than 100 years of line-of-duty deaths. That puts 2015 on pace for roughly 38 police fatalities from nonaccidental gunfire. When you adjust that data for America’s growing population, 2015 looks particularly safe for police officers.
And while each of these deaths is one too many, together they represent one of the lowest annual totals in decades. The exception is 2013, according to the memorial website, when 31 police died due to nonaccidental gunfire. And not only are fewer police being killed, fewer arebeing assaulted, according to FBI data released this year.
“Most importantly, despite all of the sensational (but exaggerated) media hype, and despite the overwhelming (but false) public opinion, there really is no ‘war on cops’ in America today,” said Mark Perry, a scholar at American Enterprise Institute who recently analyzed gunfire-related police deaths. “As the data… show, there’s never been a time in US history when it’s been safer to be a US police officer than it is today.”
And statistically speaking, that would still be true even if Gliniewicz had actually died a hero.