State Politics

Thom Tillis cites false stats about police deaths in call for law-enforcement protections

NC Senator Thom Tillis thanks police during National Police Week

N.C. Senator Thom Tillis posted a video earlier this week thanking police officers for their sacrifice during National Police Week.
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N.C. Senator Thom Tillis posted a video earlier this week thanking police officers for their sacrifice during National Police Week.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis added his support Friday to a new, pro-police bill that’s called the Back The Blue Act of 2017.

It would create stricter penalties for people who assault police officers, spend more on federal grants for police departments, make it harder for people to sue police for abuse and limit how much money victims can receive in lawsuits they win.

Tillis said the law is necessary due to a sobering statistic.

“Last year was one of the deadliest years ever for law enforcement officers, a stark reminder that these men and women go to work every day not knowing whether they’ll return home safely to their families,” Tillis said in a news release.

However, that’s not true.

PolitiFact North Carolina dug into FBI data going back half a century and found that while 2016 was deadlier for police than some recent years, it was actually far safer to be a police officer last year than in the 1990s, 1980s or especially the 1970s.

For example, there are nearly twice as many officers now than in the 1970s, but about half as many officers were killed in 2016 as during 1971, 1973, 1974 or 1975.

PolitiFact NC rated Tillis’ claim False.

Not only was 2016 not one of the deadliest years ever for cops, it was actually below-average for the last 50 years.

For a deeper dive into the data – and plenty of graphs, plus analysis from an expert on anti-police violence – read the full fact-check here.

Email: Truthometer@PoltiFact.com; Twitter: @PolitiFactNC

PolitiFact North Carolina

Speaker: Sen. Thom Tillis

Statement: “Last year was one of the deadliest years ever for law enforcement officers.”

Ruling: In 2016, 66 police officers were killed by criminals while on duty. That’s more than in some recent years, but it’s below-average for the last 50 years. In total, 143 officers died from various causes in 2016, which was one of the lowest going back to 1900. We rate this claim False.

Tillis responds

Tillis’ office didn’t provide any proof when PolitiFact asked about Tillis’ claim, but after the article was published his spokesman Daniel Keylin sent a statement, which didn’t deny that Tillis was wrong. Here it is in full:

“It’s sad commentary when the News & Observer devotes time and resources to essentially downplay the number of law enforcement officers that were killed in the line of duty. Losing one police officer is one too many. While the News & Observer exercises poor taste in pursuing and publishing stories like this, Senator Tillis will continue to do everything in his power to support North Carolina’s law enforcement community and recognize the daily sacrifices they make.”

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