Did Protests Lead to the Killing of More Cops?

June 1, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Since July of of last year, the media have publicized a handful of cases of police officers killing unarmed Black people. In response, people – mostly Black – have mounted protests not just about these killings and the exoneration of the killers but about police treatment in general.

Have these protests endangered police lives?  Heather MacDonald, the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, seems to think so. In the Wall Street Journal Friday (here), she wrote:

A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police. Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.

The logic of those two sentences is that the protests caused the increase in murders of police. If that’s true, then most of the those murders should have come in the second half of 2014, following the protests over the killing of Eric Garner.

The Officers Down Memorial Page for 2014 (here) lists 59 homicides of police, eight more than MacDonald’s figure – 47 by gunfire, 10 by vehicular assault, 2 by assault. Conveniently, ODMP* lists these deaths by month.  Here’s the tally.

Not much difference, especially considering that the extra three days in the latter six months of the year.
MacDonald’s main point is not about danger to police officers. It’s about police and crime. She is arguing that officers’ perception of increased risk coupled with “this incessant drumbeat against the police” (the main drumbeaters being public officials) has led police to withdraw from proactive policing, and that this withdrawal has in turn allowed criminals free to commit crimes.

She may be right, though as she says, data for the latter half of 2014 is not yet available, and data for the first half of 2015 is at least a year away. But when that data is available, we can assume that she will treat it as scrupulously and honestly as she treated the 2104 data on the murder of police officers.
* I also used ODMP data in an earlier post on killings of police officers ( here http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com/2015/04/cops-killing-and-being-killed.html).

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