FBI Report: Media Narrative Inspires Violence Against Police

PHOTO: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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A new report from the FBI says a one-sided media narrative against police is partly to blame for the growing hostility to law enforcement, which resulted in a sharp rise in officer killings in 2016.

The report, “Assailant Study — Mindsets and Behaviors,” said constant negative coverage in the aftermath of officer-involved shootings of minorities often inspired cop killers, beginning with the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in 2014.

“It appears that immediately following the incidents, assailants were exposed to a singular narrative by news organizations and social media of police misconduct and wrongdoing,” the report said. “In many cases, this singular narrative came from the subject’s friends and family, and witnesses who often knew the subject, long before law enforcement provided their findings to the public.”

The unclassified study, published in April, examined 50 incidents in which police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2016. It was a particularly deadly year for law enforcement — 64 officers were killed in direct attacks, a 56 percent jump from 2015, the Washington Times reported.

Assailants had several characteristics in common, the FBI said. Nearly all had prior criminal histories, and about 60 percent had a known history of drug use.

The FBI also found that 14 of the 50 attackers studied — 28 percent — had expressed a desire to kill police officers before carrying out their attacks. In those cases, assailants’ own personal experiences shaped their perceptions of police. What was being reported in the media about high-profile police shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and other states also contributed to their views.

“These assailants expressed that they were distrustful of the police due to their previous personal interactions with law enforcement and what they heard and read in the media about other incidents of law enforcement shootings,” the FBI said. “Specifically, in the Dallas, TX and Baton Rouge, LA attacks, the assailants said they were influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, and their belief that law enforcement was targeting black males.”

Five officers were killed in the Dallas ambush, which coincided with a BLM protest against police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, while three officers died in the Baton Rouge attack.

The intense scrutiny of police actions and sympathetic media coverage of anti-police movements has created a “de-policing” effect in law enforcement departments across the country, the FBI claimed.

As a result, many officers are either “scared or demoralized” and avoid interacting with the community because they feel proactively targeting criminals is not worth the potential social and professional risk, the report concluded.

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