A researcher has found that cities with Black Lives Matter protests saw a significant decrease in police murders, as well as a large overall increase in homicides.
Travis Campbell, a PhD student in economics at the University of Massachusetts, published his findings in a recent preprint study examining the impact of BLM protests on incidents involving police use of force.
His analysis, which is still being peer-reviewed, found that cities with BLM protests had 15 to 20 percent fewer police killings than expected had the protests not occurred, equating to 300 fewer police killings across the country over five years.
But in a revised, unpublished version shared with DailyMail.com, Campbell finds that cities with BLM protests also saw a 10 percent increase in homicides, equating to an additional 1,000 to 6,000 murders nationwide.
In an interview with DailyMail.com, Campbell emphasized that he believes comparing the increase in the number of murders after the protest with the decrease in the number of murders by the police is “ a comparison of apples and oranges ” that is the positive impact of BLM. protests not fully explain.
Trends in police killings can be seen in cities with BLM protests (red) and cities without (blue). Cities with BLM protests saw 15% to 20% fewer police killings than expected
The number of murders (red) and reported property crimes (blue) in a city with BLM protests is seen relative to the first year the protests started there (vertical dotted line)
“I know it’s very tempting to compare the murder rate with the use of force, but I really don’t think that’s a good thing,” Campbell said.
“There are several implications when the police kill people and when civilians kill people,” he added. “There is evidence of really significant spillover effects on police killings, particularly the effects on black people’s mental health and on crime – there is evidence that police killings have implications for civilian murders.”
Campbell said his data suggested that BLM protests result in “ less police effort and less proactive police action, ” which could explain both the decline in police killings and the overall increase in killings.
The study, first reported by Vox, shows that in the years following the BLM protests, homicides increased, even as reports of petty crimes declined.
Campbell said this trend was a “pretty strong indicator of a reduction in police work,” either because fewer crimes are being reported or because police are less likely to make proactive arrests for petty crimes.
Overall murder rates were not the focus of his investigation, so Campbell did not subject the murder rates to the same rigorous statistical battery he used in police murders, designed to control other variables.
The study looks at the follow-up effects of the BLM protests that took place from 2014 to 2019, and does not take into account the rise in nationwide protests last summer or the surprising rise in homicides in many major cities last year.
Police killings are shown in red, while BLM protests are shown in blue
Protesters climb on a devastated Baltimore police force in 2015 during violent protests following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained during his arrest
Other researchers, including Deepak Premkumar, have also examined the rise in violent crime following protests over high-profile police killings, which they call “the Ferguson Effect.”
Ferguson, Missouri was the site of protests and riots following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police in 2014, one of the first nationally prominent examples of BLM protests.
Premkumar found in a recent study that murders and robberies in cities are up 10 to 17 percent after a “high profile” police murder, which he defines as a police murder that spawns more than 1,000 articles in the news.
The reason for the increase is not clearly understood, but some have speculated that the police are “ shrinking back ” from enforcement in the face of public backlash.
Premkumar found that while arrests for minor crimes tend to decline after protests, there are limited changes in arrests for violent or more serious crimes.
Campbell’s research focused on changes in deadly incidents involving police use of force following major BLM protests.
A person blocks the road after protesters take to the streets with guns, burning and looting property in anger over the murder of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014
His research has been hampered by the fact that there is still no reliable federal database cataloging police killings across the country.
Instead, media organizations and nonprofits compile their own databases of police killings, but these are often incomplete or use questionable criteria – one of which, for example, includes suicides that occur during police encounters.
Using the best available data, Campbell found that places with BLM protests had 15 to 20 percent fewer incidents of fatal violence than expected, about 300 fewer police killings in total.
Campbell relied on complex statistical analysis to arrive at his findings, as a “controlled study” of his subject would be practically impossible.
His paper offers several theories as to why BLM protests could reduce police killings, including by pressuring police departments to change their policies.
“BLM protests double the likelihood that the local authority will get body-worn cameras,” noted Campbell.
“Since a randomized control trial found that body-worn cameras halved the risk of violence, this increase in body-worn cameras following BLM protests is likely related to the decline in police killings,” he wrote.
Campbell also suggested that police departments in cities with BLM protests are likely to improve their training and assign officers to a regular geographic ‘beat’ to improve ties with the community.
In an unusual finding, he noted that BLM protests resulted in a 6 percent decrease in the number of black police officers in a city.