We frequently hear police officers complain how dangerous their jobs are, using guilt as a motivator to extract support for increased pay or protection from consequences of officer misconduct.
After September 11 2001, it became almost impossible to criticize police officer's misbehavior without prefacing comments with genuflections toward officer's relative "heroism." "They risk their lives for us every day," was the common refrain.
Police officers' jobs are more dangerous than most -- 21.4 officers per 100,000 die on the job annually compared with 3.7 per 100,000, which is the national average for all occupations. But many common jobs are much more dangerous than a police officer's, including groundskeepers, farmers, airline pilots, construction workers, and truck drivers.
Police officers are trained to approach potential threats with overwhelming force, and are outfitted with numerous safety technologies (vests, helmets, etc.) that make their on-the-job deaths much less likely than for, say, lumberjacks. Multiple officers provide backup frequently even for routine traffic stops. And harsh punishment of cop killers -- both ill treatment while in official hands and the threat of capital punishment -- creates dramatic incentives even for the worst bad guys to avoid killing a police officer.
Here's a list compiled from federal sources concerning the relative danger of several jobs with higher-than-average fatality rates:
Occupations more dangerous than being a police officer:
Number of deaths per 100,000 employed Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics-Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries - 2008
Logging workers: 87.0
Aircraft pilots: 67.0
Iron and steelworkers: 45.0
Farmers and ranchers: 38.0
Garbage collectors: 36.8
Electrical power line installation/repair: 29.8
Truck drivers: 22.8
Oil and gas extraction: 21.9
Police officers and Deputies: 21.4*
Taxi drivers: 19.3
Drinking establishment employees: 17.0
Construction workers: 16.0
Grounds maintenance: 11.9
Gas station attendant: 7.5
Auto mechanics: 5.0
Newspaper publishers: 4.8
Retail sales: 1.5
* A high percentage of police officers deaths involve traffic accidents and not wearing a "seat belt."