Gee, I wonder why. The Star Tribune reports today that police have endured “a wave of assaults” from suspects they encounter, a major uptick in violence against officers. The rise in these violent encounters appears to correlate with the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case, and the police union argues that it’s more than correlation:
Police have endured a wave of assaults from criminal suspects in recent weeks, with at least seven violent encounters occurring in a 15-hour span last weekend across the Twin Cities and many more incidents elsewhere in Minnesota this month.
Law enforcement agencies say that in 18 assaults in the state since May 5 their officers have been hit with objects, bitten, spat upon, kicked, put in a headlock, Maced, scratched and bruised by defiant suspects, some of whom are backing up their actions with verbal threats of serious injury or death.
One leading advocate for peace officers across the state sees a connection between the conviction of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last month in the death of George Floyd, a killing the world saw unfold in a bystander’s viral video.
“The people out there doing crimes right now know law enforcement is a little more apprehensive when doing their jobs,” said Jim Mortenson, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services, Minnesota’s largest public safety labor union. “They don’t want to be the next YouTube sensation. They don’t want to be prosecuted and sent to prison.”
Looks like all that de-escalation and policing retreats are really paying off! The Strib notes that this is not as recent a phenomenon as Chauvin’s conviction. Suspect assaults and attacks on officers have been increasing since the death of George Floyd and the riots in Minneapolis almost exactly a year ago. The riots themselves more or less kicked off this trend as mobs attacked police precincts and drove off the local police, requiring the tardy dispatch of the National Guard to restore order.
The pace has picked up recently, however, and it’s not limited to the beleaguered Minneapolis PD. In fact, only two of the eleven that took place before Sunday’s spree were in Minneapolis, and only one in St. Paul. The rest of the attacks took place in the suburbs, excepting one that took place in Duluth. Even in tony Plymouth, police report that suspect resistance has increased recently. One has to wonder whether this recent uptick is a reaction to Chauvin’s conviction or the April shooting of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center police. Oddly, while the Strib discusses the Chauvin trial and George Floyd as a cause, they never even mention Wright’s shooting in the context of the sudden uptick.
Either way, this is yet another demonstration of how incentives matter, and how public figures set them for good and ill. Police officers who break the law should be prosecuted, but policing overall requires support from all civic institutions. Politicians in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota have run away from policing, even while the most vulnerable communities insist they need more of it (although performed better as well). The contempt given to law enforcement by those responsible for its performance gives great license to criminals to become even more defiant — and that ends up creating even more danger of lethal force being used. It’s a vicious cycle, and few if any voices in this state’s leadership are speaking out to break it.