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Cities With BLM Protests Had Fewer Police Shootings, Dramatically More Deaths

Cities With BLM Protests Had Fewer Police Shootings, Dramatically More Deaths

Although Black Lives Matter protests led to lower numbers of police shootings in their communities, more people were killed following the unrest than would have been by police.

Travis Campbell, an economics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, found that Black Lives Matter protests led to about 300 fewer police homicides between 2014 and 2019. However, his research also showed that homicides increased by 10% in places that had Black Lives Matter protests. This led to between 1,000 and 6,000 more deaths than there would have been without the protests.


St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson first noted the “Ferguson Effect” in the aftermath of riots following the death of Michael Brown. “The criminal element is feeling empowered by the environment” of rioting and violence, Dotson said at the time. Rioters destroyed about $4.6 million worth of property in late November 2014 after a grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald defined the “Ferguson Effect” in a 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed as a “surge in lawlessness [brought on by] intense agitation against American police departments.”

“Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity” after Brown’s death, she explained. “Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November, and robberies in the county were up 82%.”

FERGUSON, MO – NOV. 24: Demonstrators celebrate as a business burns after it was set on fire during rioting following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mac Donald’s theory was contested by Democratic officials when she first proposed it. Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified to the House Judiciary Committee in 2015 that there was no data to suggest that police officers were pulling back from communities that had hosted intense protests and riots over police shootings. Then-President Barack Obama accused proponents of the theory, including then-FBI Director James Comey, of “cherry-pick[ing] data or us[ing] anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.”

In response to those criticisms, Mac Donald argued in a 2015 column that anecdotal evidence suggested that police officers were pulling back from policing poorer and majority-minority neighborhoods due to fears that they would be unable to collect evidence and make arrests safely. Mac Donald pointed to Nashville, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Cleveland as 2015 examples of this trend.


“Officers report more guns on the street; people who were borderline before and not carrying are now packing heat, officers say because their chances of getting stopped have fallen. Officers are not intervening in the low-level criminal activity and public order offenses that can quickly ripen into more serious felonies,” she wrote.

A recent spike in murder rates and Campbell’s research appear to have borne out Mac Donald’s thesis. The National Commission of COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ) found that homicide rates spiked 30% in 34 cities in 2020. Rates particularly increased in June, the month after the death of George Floyd. From June through August 2020, murder rates increased 37.2%, 32.5% from January through February, 28.2% from September through December, and 19.4% from March through May.

From The Daily Caller

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