After police violence against unarmed black men, 911 crime calls drop

Enlarge / MILWAUKEE, WI: A woman rests her head on the shoulders of a man as a group of supporters stop and pray after a verdict of not guilty came back on four of the five charges for the three former police officers who stood trial for the beating of Frank Jude Jr. (credit: Getty | Darren Hauck)

After news broke that a group of Milwaukee police officers savagely beat an unarmed black man named Frank Jude in 2004, the city saw crime-related 911 calls drop by about 20 percent for more than a year—totaling about 22,200 lost reports of crimes—according to a new study by a group of sociologists at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford universities.

The outcome wasn’t unique to Jude’s beating, the researchers found. Looking at the city's 911 call-records from 2004 to 2010, they noted similar drops after other highly publicized local and national cases of police violence against unarmed black men.

The findings square with earlier research showing that communities—specifically black communities given recent events—become more cynical of law enforcement after brutality cases. But the new study, published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, is the first to show that people actually change their behavior based on that elevated distrust. Namely, community members become less likely to report crimes to law enforcement, likely out of fear of interacting with police or skepticism that police will take them seriously and help.

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