Criminologist Debunks Spike in Police Killings Since Ferguson

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Despite a widespread impression that the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson marked the beginning of a significant increase in fatal killings of U.S. civilians by police officers, there is no proof of such a rise, says criminologist Bradley Campbell. The average number of such shootings around the nation has been steady at about 19 per week since at least May 2013–more than a year before the Ferguson case–through last year, the University of Louisville’s Campbell told the American Society of Criminology Wednesday. The society is holding its annual meeting in New Orleans this week. Campbell acknowledged that data on killings by police are incomplete, noting that compilations by the Washington Post and the Guardian have outpaced those by the federal government. The FBI has announced plans to upgrade the federal database of such incidents.

Campbell relied partly on the website to compile comparative data going back well before the Brown case. Although the Washington Post has reported some short-term rises in police killings, Campbell said a longer look shows that the total fluctuates from month to month. He criticized journalists for asserting an upward trend based on data from very brief periods, calling it “simplistic” and “very misleading.” Campbell also said there is no evidence of a “Ferguson effect” on police shooting totals. That is the label put on a supposed trend that officers are taking more shots at people because criminals are now frequently defying law enforcement. Campbell also expressed doubts about an alternate hypothesis: that many police officers have become less aggressive after intense scrutiny of the Ferguson shooting and others.

2 thoughts on “Criminologist Debunks Spike in Police Killings Since Ferguson

  1. Please, don’t publish such utter nonsense without telling your readers that Mr. Campbell works for the police.

    Bradley A. Campbell is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville and a research associate for the Southern Police Institute. His research interests focus on policing, particularly police investigations, organizations, and responses to victims. Further interests include the utility of forensic evidence in police investigations, police body-worn cameras, and police training/socialization processes.

  2. Nope. The University of Louisville is not “the police.” Bradley A. Campbell works for the University of Louisville. The Southern Police Institute is an institute operating within the governance of the University of Louisville. It is not “the police,” either. The research interests listed here are what Dr. Campbell likes to study. But they are not connected to any studies that have been funded by police departments, unless the departments paid the university (and its employee Dr. Campbell) to do the research . . . which is doubtful.

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