While police killings declined in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, a recent study found that there was a jump in homicides as police became “less proactive” due to worries about public perception and lawsuits.
Mr. Brown was an 18-year-old black man shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Mr. Floyd, 46, died after a white police officer knelt over his neck during an arrest in Minneapolis in 2020. The study analyzed how police treatment changed over a five-year period between the two protest waves.
“The findings of the event study suggest that the BLM protests led police departments to pull back from interactions with the public and obtain body cameras, leading to increased crime and decreased police killings," wrote study author Travis Campbell.
The study found a 14 percentage-point increase in the share of agencies obtaining body-worn cameras over the five-year period.
“Rather than focusing on improving evidence quality or reducing agency liability, they reported objectives such as reducing the use of force and enhancing community perception,” the report said.
Less Police ActivityWhile police killings declined, homicides surged. During the five-year period of the study, reported murders rose by about 11.5 percent, which translates into more than 3,000 additional homicides, the study noted.
In addition, property crime arrests fell by about 12 percent, and the property crime clearance rate—the number of cases solved by law enforcement—saw a “sharp decline” of 8 percent.
“These statistics are not only alarming but also offer compelling evidence of a substantial decrease in police activity," Mr. Campbell wrote.
The study cites a “growing body of research” to note that after BLM protests drew public attention to police killings, officers became “less proactive.” Police began pulling back from enforcing the law and other practices aimed at ensuring public safety as they were apprehensive of criticism or lawsuits, and morale had declined significantly.
“As aversion to the criminal justice system increases and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement decreases, some resort to violence to resolve conflicts, potentially explaining the rise in homicides following some protests," the report states.
The settlement agreement requires the NYPD to deploy fewer officers in most public protests and use a four-tier system to determine appropriate police response, with a focus on deescalating the situation.
Police Morale and DefundingThe study found that BLM protests triggered by the death of Mr. Floyd led to a decline in favorability toward the police and increased support for police reform, specifically in “liberal areas” of the country.
“Consequently, police morale suffered, leading to a 279% increase in voluntary resignations among police officers," the study said.
Betsy Smith, a retired police sergeant and wife of Mr. Smith, pointed out that police departments have faced “two and a half years of demonization” and many of them are “short-staffed.”
In Tucson, Arizona, police staffing declined to a level not seen since the mid-1970s, Ms. Smith said, while a recruiting event in Phoenix only attracted 35 people rather than the usual 1,000 applicants, she added.
Attacks on police officers also rose. According to the FBI, at least one police officer was killed every six days on average in 2022, making it the third most dangerous year for law enforcement officers in two decades.
No Tracking of Violent ProtestersDuring a House Oversight Hearing on counterterrorism on Sept. 29, 2021, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) asked Timothy Langan, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, about how the agency was dealing with groups like BLM and Antifa, a far-left extremist group.
Mr. Langan replied that the FBI does not classify them as “domestic terrorist” groups. Instead, BLM and Antifa are classified as "movements.” Neither of the groups are classified as “anti-authority” or “anti-government” organizations.
“[The FBI was] telling all of America that they don’t track acts of violence by these violent groups. [It] is astounding, and further in that inquiry, the FBI then tell me that there are about 75 open cases of ‘anti-government-related’ categories,” she said.
“We’ve all seen the violence over the last two years across cities around the nation, literally Antifa and Black Lives Matter burning down street corners, destroying companies, destroying people’s livelihoods, pulling people out of their cars and beating them in broad daylight, and we don’t track Antifa because—quote—'it’s a movement.'"