Matthew T. Mangino
January 5, 2018
There was a sharp decline in police officers killed in the line of duty last year. In 2017 there were 129 officers killed in the line of duty — 14 fewer than the year before. In 2016 there were 66 police officers killed by gunfire, that number dropped by more than 30 percent in 2017.
The number of officers killed last year marks the second lowest death toll in more than a half-a-century.
However, those numbers reflect only the officers killed. The National Fraternal Order of Police recorded more than 270 officers who were shot in the line of duty last year. The death toll may have been higher but for tactical gear, better training or as Randy Sutton, a former police lieutenant and spokesman for Blue Lives Matter told the USA Today, police officers don’t put themselves in dangerous situations as often, “There’s a saying in law enforcement: You can’t get in trouble for the car stop you don’t make.”
The Blue Lives Matter website provides that the organization was founded following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. The website declares, “The media catered to movements such as Black Lives Matter, whose goal was the vilification of law enforcement. Criminals who rioted and victimized innocent citizens were further given legitimacy by the media as ‘protesters.’”
Some criminal justice experts suggest there is a causal link between the unrest and the increase in homicides nationwide. According to the New York Times, homicides rose by 8.6 percent in 2016, one year after homicides jumped by 10.8 percent. A total of 17,250 people were murdered in the U.S. in 2016.
Heather MacDonald, of the Manhattan Institute, has dubbed it the “Ferguson Effect,” a reference to the rise in violent crime following the unrest in Ferguson in 2014.
As McDonald sees it, according to The Daily Caller, police officers are so worried about being vilified by city leaders and the press that they are avoiding contact with the criminal element.
“Cops are backing off of proactive policing in high-crime minority neighborhoods, and criminals are becoming emboldened,” MacDonald wrote in the City Journal. “Having been told incessantly by politicians, the media, and Black Lives Matter activists that they are bigoted for getting out of their cars and questioning someone loitering on a known drug corner at 2 a.m., many officers are instead just driving by.”
The combination of the Ferguson Effect and Blue Lives Matter is creating an interesting phenomenon. While the last two years have been two of the safest years in the last 50 years for police officers, a growing number of communities are coming off of some of the most deadly years in history.
Blue Live Matter is gaining momentum. In the last year, lawmakers in 17 states have introduced bills proposing that members of law enforcement be included in hate crime protections ― the same protections provided to people of color, religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community ― according to an analysis by The Huffington Post.
At least four states have enacted Blue Lives Matter laws. In 2016, Louisiana became the first state to enact legislation. Last March, the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi signed versions of the law and the Texas law went into effect on Sept. 1.
According to Newsweek, California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin have considered similar legislation.
How much can the increase in community violence and the decrease in violence against police officers be traced to a slowdown in policing as described by Blues Lives Matter’s Randy Sutton and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather McDonald?
More importantly, how much will beleaguered cities and neighborhoods tolerate?
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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