The fatal shooting of two Iowa police officers on Wednesday brought the total number of police officers that have been killed in the line of duty in 2016 to 52, the highest number of officers killed since 2011. Scott Greene is suspected of fatally shooting Officer Justin Martin and Sgt. Anthony Beminio as they sat in their squad car shortly after midnight earlier this week. The motive for killing the two officers is unknown.
High profile police killings
Over the summer, there were high profile killings of five police officers in Dallas and three other officers in Louisiana. These slayings followed protests by Black Lives Matter activists in the two communities over what some believed were unjustified police shootings of black men. In Dallas, the five officers were killed while protecting a Black Lives Matter protest over police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana.
76% respect police
The nation’s response to the violence against police officers was demonstrated in a Gallup poll released in October that showed that 76% of Americans have “a great deal” of respect for their local police. This level of support is the highest number recorded since 1967. There was some racial disparity in the poll with 67% of nonwhites giving their support to the police compared to 80% of whites, but the overall message that the majority of all Americans hold the police in high regard is evident.
The poll indicates that most of the country has rejected the concept put forth by some that the police are engaged in the wide spread use of excessive force. That does not deny that there are occasional incidents of excessive force, nor does it deny that a significant number of people believe that the police over target members of the black community.
The Ferguson effect
Some have cited the ‘Ferguson effect’ as an explanation for the increase in crime in some large cities such as Chicago, which has seen more than 600 murders in 2016 alone. The ‘Ferguson effect’ theory was born from the fallout after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting resulted in charges being files against a police officer, Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Mr. Brown. The charges were later dismissed, and the shooting was ruled as justified. However, many police officers have become fearful of being accused of a crime if they arrest minorities and many police officers have reduced their policing activities in some of the larger inner cities.
Chicago is a prime example of the Ferguson effect. Stops were down nearly 90 percent in the first part of this year compared with last year. Shootings citywide through July 17 were up 50 percent compared with the same period in 2015; shootings were up 87 percent compared with the same period in 2014. — The Washington Post
The ‘Ferguson effect’ has gained widespread publicity and is often cited as a rationale behind the public misperception that crime is on the increase. Even in cities where the crime rate has declined, the citizens often believe it is growing.
There is not a nationwide crime wave, or rising violence across American cities. Warnings of a coming crime wave may be provocative, but they are not supported by the evidence. — Brennan Center for Justice
The dramatic increase in the public’s support for the police is likely based on a combination of the recent violence against police and a backlash against the ‘Ferguson effect.’ The bottom line is that the majority of Americans feel the police are doing a good job and they enjoy a high level of support from the public.