Being a police officer can be a dangerous job but exactly how dangerous it is depends on many variables. There are many types of law enforcement, and different areas boast different crime and mortality rates. Being a police officer may not be as dangerous as one may think, however, as statistically it is less dangerous than being a professional fisherman.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers face a fatality rate of 21.8 per 100,000, whereas the statistics for fishers and related fishing workers are actually five times that. In fact, police officers were tenth on the 2009 list of the most dangerous occupations in America, after milder sounding jobs such as truck drivers, loggers, and refuse and recyclable material collectors. The statistics do vary, however, for police officers in different areas.
Law enforcement jobs can be found at all levels of government, from federal agencies to local small-town sheriffs. The most common cause of death in the occupation is transportation incidents. Police work also carries a high risk of injury and illness. Being a police officer is a stressful occupation, as the work often involves dealing with a hostile public in difficult situations, and the threat of injury is a constant one. This has an effect on mental outlook, with the officer's personal life often suffering if he has difficulty dealing with stress.
Some officers patrol the streets on foot while others ride in cars or on bicycles, horses or motorbikes. Some of them are in uniform and others in plainclothes. A great deal of the work involves writing reports and performing routine tasks such as gathering information. It is in the operation of motor vehicles and equipment as well as in the resolution of disputes and the apprehension of suspects that the danger lies.
The majority of deaths have occurred accidentally rather than feloniously, which is a reversal of past trends. Many police officers have lost their lives as a result of standing outside their cars on a roadside and being knocked down by oncoming traffic as they deal with a traffic violation or accident scene. While police fatalities have decreased over the years, the relative number of traffic fatalities has steadily increased.
Working at night is generally more dangerous than working during the day, as criminality is more predominant during the evening hours. Improvements in equipment and training and better emergency medical care have led to a decrease in the danger of being a police officer. There is an unpredictability to police work, however, that makes it more dangerous than most other jobs.