The report, “Assailant Study — Mindsets and Behaviors,” said that the social-justice movement sparked by the 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, “made it socially acceptable to challenge and discredit the actions of law enforcement.”
FBI spokesman Matthew Bertron said the study was written in April.
“Nearly every police official interviewed agreed that for the first time, law enforcement not only felt that their national political leaders [publicly] stood against them, but also that the politicians’ words and actions signified that disrespect to law enforcement was acceptable in the aftermath of the Brown shooting,” the study said.
As a result, “Law enforcement officials believe that defiance and hostility displayed by assailants toward law enforcement appears to be the new norm.”
The report examined 50 of the 53 incidents last year in which officers were killed in the line of duty, excluding the three cases that involved minors or perpetrators who remain unknown.
Most of the assailants who used deadly force against officers did so in an effort to avoid being taken into custody, but 28 percent were motivated by hatred of police and a desire to “kill law enforcement,” in some cases fueled by social and political movements.
“The assailants inspired by social and/or political reasons believed that attacking police officers was their way to ‘get justice’ for those who had been, in their view, unjustly killed by law enforcement,” the study said.
The perpetrators said their animus toward police was based on their own experiences as well as “what they heard and read in the media about other incidents involving law enforcement shootings.”
Those charged in the July 2016 shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge “said they were influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, and their belief that law enforcement was targeting black males,” the report said.
Five officers were killed in the Dallas ambush, which coincided with a protest against police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, while three officers died in the Baton Rouge massacre.
Last year was particularly deadly for police: Sixty-four were shot and killed in the line of duty, a 56 percent increase from 2015. Of those, 21 were killed in ambush-style attacks, “the highest total in more than two decades,” according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
While racial tension has been the focus of deadly police encounters since the Brown shooting, nearly half of the assailants who killed officers in 2016 — 48 percent — were white, the FBI study found.
Of the rest, 36 percent were black, 14 percent were Hispanic, and 2 percent were Native Alaskan. Nearly all — 86 percent — had criminal histories; 60 percent had used drugs, and 32 percent were under the influence at the time of the attack.
In addition, 26 percent were under active warrants, and 24 percent had known gang affiliations. All were men.
The report also found that the trend toward drug decriminalization and reduced sentencing had emboldened perpetrators, making them believe that “consequences no longer exist for criminal acts, especially drug offenses.”
“Across the country, law enforcement link the decriminalization of drugs to the increase in violent attacks on law enforcement,” said the study.
Such factors have “had the effect of ‘de-policing’ in law enforcement agencies across the country, which assailants have exploited.”
The report cited an example in which an officer was slammed to the ground and beaten but refused to shoot the assailant “for fear of community backlash.”
“The officer informed the superintendent that the officer chose not to shoot because the officer didn’t want his/her ‘family or department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news,’ ” the study said.