In the aftermath of the mass shooting of a dozen police officers in Dallas this week, some conservatives rushed to lay blame for the incident at the feet of the Obama administration.
Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh said on Twitter that “Obama’s words & [Black Lives Matter]’s deeds have gotten cops killed.” Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.) said, “the spread of misinformation and constant instigation by prominent leaders, including our president” contributed to the killings. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said the shooting had “roots” in the “anti-white/cop events illuminated by Obama.”
These statements are part of a broader narrative of a “war on cops” carried out by the Obama administration and/or the Black Lives Matter movement, depending on whom you ask. It’s certainly true that some shooters of police, such as the Dallas attacker, appear to be motivated by a hatred of white police officers or a twisted urge to seek revenge for police shootings of black Americans. But the simplistic and inflammatory notion of a “war on cops” is completely undercut by one fundamental data point: Intentional attacks on police officers are at historically low levels under President Obama.
Data from the Officers Down Memorial Page, which tracks law enforcement officer fatalities in real time, illustrates the point. During the Reagan years, for instance, an average of 101 police officers were intentionally killed each year. Under George H.W. Bush that number fell to 90. It fell further, to 81 deaths per year, under Bill Clinton, and to 72 deaths per year under George W. Bush.