FBI Study Is Telling About Policing In a Post-Ferguson America
By Ron Hosko, LELDF President
A frightening new FBI study offers a chilling view of police in retreat in a post-Ferguson world where politicians and media are seen as driving a destructive anti-cop narrative.
The FBI "Assailant Study" examined the forces behind the violent killings of more than 60 law enforcement officers in 2016, killings that reflected a 56 percent spike over police murders in 2015.
Some of the results were predictable:
- 86 percent of the 50 studied assailants had criminal histories.
- 18 percent had diagnosed mental health issues.
- 60 percent had histories of drug use.
- All of the killers were male.
- A substantial portion of the offenders felt they were going to lose their freedom by going back to prison.
Then came the real news.
More than a quarter of assailants, twenty-eight percent or (14/50), expressed a desire to kill law officers prior to carrying out their deadly attacks. Their main reason: attacking police officers was their way to "get justice" for those who they believed were unjustly killed by law enforcement.
Some tipped off friends or family about their intent to kill police. And, unsurprisingly, some of the assailants said they were influenced by the poisonous Black Lives Matter movement.
The FBI study also collected views of police officials. Nearly all of those contacted believed national political leaders publicly stood against them and that the words and deeds of politicians emboldened criminals by signifying that disrespect of law enforcement was acceptable in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting of Michael Brown.
Police officials also laid blame on news outlets and social media that exposed viewers to a steady narrative suggesting police wrong-doing and misconduct.
Experienced law enforcers now know two distinct worlds: pre-Ferguson and post-Ferguson. The Ferguson mythology of “Hands up, don’t shoot” was played out in the streets, in Congress, in professional sports venues, and most prominently in American newsrooms. The lie of Ferguson spread across America like a virus and the police are now badly in need of a cure.
Eighteen months ago, FBI Director Jim Comey sounded an early alarm in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School. He warned of a "chill wind" blowing across American law enforcement, a wind that had police officers pulling back from the proactive policing that’s so desperately needed in strife-filled inner cities.
Comey’s supposition quickly drew the ire of White House and DOJ voices.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest pounced first, saying, "[the] evidence at this point does not support the notion that law enforcement officers around the country are shying away from fulfilling their responsibilities."
He then spun Comey’s concern to sound like it was a shot at the police work ethic, saying, "The evidence that we’ve seen so far doesn’t support the contention that law enforcement officials are somehow shirking their responsibility."
While the critics argued there was no data to the director’s comments, the real offense was deeper. Comey had the audacity to recount what he’d been hearing from cops on the street and that viewpoint flew in the face of the anti-cop tone being set by the Obama White House for years.
The Obama narrative was one that presupposed in any notorious police encounter that the cops were in the wrong, that they were driven by unconscious (or conscious) bias, or were heavy-handed, or that they "acted stupidly."
To him, racist cops fed a racist system of mass incarceration, where legions of low-level drug offenders were judicially processed by equally broken, minimum mandatory sentencing requirements that gave no leeway for a judge to quickly return even multiple offenders back to the streets.
As the FBI Assailant Study adds one more data point to the director’s hypothesis, one that piles on to rising violent crime rates after two decades of decline, and on to troubling "de-policing" numbers showing plummeting police encounters even in cities with rising crime rates, and on to shrinking law enforcement applicant pools as young men and women opt for other professions, the critics will cry foul.
Some will question the breadth and depth of the study or claim the study is just FBI confirmation bias supportive of the director. Others will casually ignore the grim reality being played out in cities large and small, while finding new ways to undermine trust in police and celebrating anti-cop movements like Black Lives Matter, no matter how destructive their narrative.
But the 2016 election of Donald Trump brought change. The anti-cop themes of the Obama administration are behind us. The White House welcome mat, once rolled out for Al Sharpton and Black Lives Matter mouthpieces, has been tucked away for loftier purposes.
As we approach national Police Week ceremonies, options loom. The Trump administration can choose a path that recognizes and appreciates the service and sacrifice of the men and women of law enforcement, or they can invite community destruction each time the media circles a police use of force event by injecting doubt, pointing first to race, and offering judgments before facts are known.
The FBI study is telling about policing a post-Ferguson America. The new administration should acknowledge it by staying the course on a welcome attitude of support for the police that resonated at Trump campaign rallies a big step in the right direction.
Now, a patient, steady White House hand is needed to wait for the facts of citizen/police encounters, examined through an unbiased lens, allowing for investigations of serious incidents to proceed without the commander-in-chief’s thumb on the scales of justice.