Things That Matter

Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working As Murders By Police Drop In Cities Across The Country

The Black Lives Matter movement is not new. Black Americans have been fighting for their lives for generations. But since the high-profile murders of unarmed Black men at the hands of America’s police officers, the country has been coming to terms with its racist identity. 

Over the summer, despite a deadly pandemic, millions of Americans poured into the streets in cities across the country to demand justice and shout to the world that Black Lives Matter! These protests grew into an international movement that is helping to hold police officers accountable for their actions and it seems to be working. 

Police killings have dropped in cities that held BLM protests.

Since the Black Lives Matter movement grew to national prominence in 2014, protests have spread to cities around the U.S. A new study shows that police homicides have significantly decreased in most cities where such protests occurred. 

“Black Lives Matter represents a trend that goes beyond the decentralization that existed within the Civil Rights Movement,” says Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the new study. “The question becomes, ‘Are Black Lives Matter protests having any real effect in terms of generating change?’ The data show very clearly that where you had Black Lives Matter protests, killing of people by the police decreased. It’s inescapable from this study that protest matters—that it can generate change.”

According to the study, posted by the Social Science Research Network, municipalities where BLM protests have been held experienced as much as a 20 percent decrease in killings by police, resulting in an estimated 300 fewer deaths nationwide in 2014–2019. The occurrence of local protests increased the likelihood of police departments adopting body-worn cameras and community-policing initiatives, the study also found. Many cities with larger and more frequent BLM protests experienced greater declines in police homicides.

The study shows just how important the Black Lives Matter movement is at saving lives.

The difference was significant in this study: it found police killings fell by 16.8 percent on average in municipalities that had BLM protests, compared with those that did not. When Campbell compared municipalities that already had similar trends in police homicides before BLM began, the estimate rose to 21.1 percent. 

BLM protests may have this effect because they push police departments to adopt reforms such as body cams or community policing, as the study found. Another reason may be that the protests affect police morale, causing officers to adopt a less aggressive patrolling posture that reduces police-civilian interactions in general. And not all cities experienced declines amid the protests. 
But not all cities witnessed the same declines. Police homicides increased in Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and St. Louis during the five-year period.

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