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Gun Assault Rise On Police After Floyd Death Not A 'War On Cops'

The police murder of George Floyd murder was associated with a three-week spike in firearm assaults on U.S police officers that indicated a significant increase in "retaliatory violence," found a newly published study.


That spike quickly subsided to levels slightly above what would be expected in the absence of Floyd’s murder.


Floyd’s murder led to about 37 additional firearm assaults on police between May 25 and December 31, 2020, the study found.


About 26 additional firearm assaults were estimated to have occurred in the three weeks immediately after Floyd’s murder.


The aftermath of Floyd's death revived claims that public outcry over such high-profile police killings perpetuates a violent “war on cops.”


The researchers cautioned that the spike was not evidence of a “war."


The study was conducted by researchers Michael Sierra-Arévalo of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Justin Nix of the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO), and Scott Mourtgos of the University of Utah. It appears in Criminology, a publication of the American Society of Criminology.


“The police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked what experts have described

as the largest social movement in history,” write the authors. “Floyd’s murder also coincided

with a once-in-a-century pandemic that sharply shifted the behavior of individuals and social

institutions.”


This combination presented significant challenges to assessing whether Floyd’s murder by police had a significant effect on violence against police, the authors said.

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Researchers used data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which records fatal and non-fatal firearm assaults on police from January 2014 through December 2020. They analyzed firearm assault data in the

months prior to Floyd’s murder (before and after the onset of COVID-19) to isolate the effect of

the murder on firearm assaults of police.


The authors said their study could not ignore the possibility that some of the spike in firearm assaults related to Floyd’s murder were driven by changes in police behavior and their perceptions of the public.


Excessively violent police tactics at Floyd protests could have increased the likelihood that officers were assaulted.


"While our results show a significant, short-term increase in firearm assaults on police following George Floyd’s murder, the shooting of a police officer remains a statistically rare event,” the authors said. The concluded that popular rhetoric about a “war on cops” is unsupported by available data.


'War on cops' rhetoric may also be implicated in current recruitment and retention difficulties reported by police departments.


“By reducing departmental staffing levels, ‘war on cops’ rhetoric may be reducing police effectiveness and response time in ways that, ironically, decrease officer safety,” the authors note.


Instead of continuing to use this kind of language, the authors suggest a focus on strategies that can simultaneously improve community and officer safety.

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