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Research suggests that Minneapolis is in for a rise in violence

At the start of June, as Minn Post reported, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said that the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day:

…and others like it require investigation into whether MPD’s “training, policies, procedures, practices, including but not limited to use of force protocols, and any corresponding implementation, amounts to unlawful race-based policing, which deprives people of color, particularly Black community members, of their civil rights.”

An investigation is to be welcomed. As I’ve written before:

It is not being ‘anti-police’ to point out that encounters between police officers and civilians end in death much more frequently in the U.S. than they do in other comparably rich countries. Out of 57 countries for which numbers are available, the U.S. ranks 4th on GDP per capita, sandwiched between Norway and Hong Kong. But on killings by law enforcement officers per 10 million people, the U.S. ranks 20th, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. Our rate of 46.6 killings by law enforcement officers per 10 million people compares with 1.9 in Norway and 1.3 in Hong Kong. The police exist to protect the public and it would appear that there is room for improvement.

There are things we can do. Experience and research shows, among other things, that more restrictive state and local policies governing police use of force are associated with significantly lower rates of police shootings/killings by police; that police departments that get more military weapons from the federal government kill more people; and that cities with worse police union contracts – in terms of purging misconduct records and reinstating fired officers, for example – have higher police violence rates. These are the beginnings of a practical agenda for police reform.

Research shows that murders rise after ‘viral’ incidents of deadly force

But a new paper from economists Tanaya Devi and Roland G. Fryer Jr suggests that some caution is warranted. They provide “the first empirical examination of the impact of federal and state “Pattern-or-Practice” investigations on crime and policing” and find that:

For investigations that were not preceded by “viral” incidents of deadly force, investigations, on average, led to a statistically significant reduction in homicides and total crime.

This is good news. But there is bad news, especially for Minneapolis:

In stark contrast, all investigations that were preceded by “viral” incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies. The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced. In Riverside CA, interactions decreased 54%. In St. Louis, self-initiated police activities declined by 46%. Other theories we test such as changes in community trust or the aggressiveness of consent decrees associated with investigations — all contradict the data in important ways.

Violence in Minneapolis

In the early hours of Sunday, 12 people were shot in Uptown Minneapolis, one, Cody C. Pollard, 27, a father of two small children, fatally. The Star Tribune reported:

The shooting was one of several across the city since Saturday afternoon, continuing a rash of gun violence since the unrest over the police killing of Floyd, with more than 90 people shot in Minneapolis since May 26.

Yet another fatal shooting took place Sunday night in Minneapolis. Officers found a 17-year-old boy suffering from a gunshot wound in the 3000 block of N. Knox Avenue. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His death marked the city’s 25th homicide of the year.

Criminologists have noted similar patterns in other cities — most recently Baltimore, which saw violent crime rise in the wake of a police killing — offering a variety of possible explanations, from eroded confidence in police to officers pulling back on their duties because of the intense public backlash.

Last week, [police spokesman John] Elder scoffed at the suggestion that officers were showing less initiative. “Our officers are still responding to calls, they are still addressing calls, and the fact that anybody would think that there is a stand-down order or some sort of work stoppage, that is patently false,” he said.

He said the surge in shootings coincided with the start of summer.

Hopefully Elder is correct and the recent violence in Minneapolis is just high spirits associated with summer. Devi and Fryer’s research, by contrast, suggests that we ought to be more concerned.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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