An FBI report labeled for internal use only reveals that law enforcement authorities were keen on drawing links between the spike in killings of U.S. police officers last year and the Black Lives Matter in order to paint the movement and related media narratives on police brutality as contributing factors, despite a lack of evidence from the FBI's own investigation to prove such claims.
The report, obtained by the Washington Examiner, studied information about the assailants’ mindsets and behaviors in 50 incidents against law enforcement officers that occurred in 2016. A total of 60 police officers were killed in 53 incidents last year.
In 86 percent of the incidents, the assailants had a prior criminal record and in 56 percent of cases the assailants were known to the local law enforcement offices, the report found. The assailants had diagnosed mental health issues in 18 percent of cases and annecdotally mental health was said to be a factor in 40 percent of the attacks.
More assailants were white than any other race, with 48 percent white, 36 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Alaska Native, according to the report.
Of all the assailants examined in the report, 14 of them simply has a desire to kill the police. “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 report said.
Another reason behind those assailants’ desire to kill the police was to remain free and not return to jail or prison, according to the report. In about 40 percent of the incidents, the assailants shot the officers as they ran away from officers who attempted to arrest or serve a warrant.
But despite the concrete findings of the report highlighting the role of mental health, criminal history and general anti-police sentiments fueling the attack, the FBI report went on to make a leap to claim that the Black Lives Matter movement, media coverage of police brutality and statements from politicians were contributing factors that "influenced the mindset and behaviors of the assailants."
“Specifically, the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, in 2014, and the social disturbances that followed, initiated a movement that some perceived made it socially acceptable to challenge and discredit the actions of law enforcement,” the report said. "This attitude was fueled by the narrative of police misconduct and excessive force perpetuated through politicians and the media."
The report specifically claimed that the assailants in the Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, attacks had been influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the FBI didn't mention that the assailant in the Dallas shooting had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following his return from Afghanistan, and that he had sought medical treatment for anxiety, depression, and hallucinations. This doesn't exactly fit into their narrative of blaming Black Lives Matter. The report also claimed that assailants were constantly exposed to a "singular narrative" of police misconduct and wrongdoing in both traditional and social media.
“Without law enforcement and elected officials providing an alternative narrative, assailants developed a distrust of law enforcement, and felt emboldened and justified in using violence against police,” the report said.
The report also claimed that assailants "exploited" shifting attitudes that have contributed to changing how law enforcement officers carry out policing activities, citing officer testimonies of feeling "scared and demoralized" after police forces received "intense scrutiny and criticism" in the wake of high-profile cases of police brutality and killings.
“Law enforcement officials believe that defiance and hostility displayed by assailants towards law enforcement appears to be the new norm,” the report said.
The report also warned that recent criminal justice reform that aimed to decriminalizing drugs and reducing penalties for narcotics offenses would make the situation worse, as more criminals would be put back on the street with an attitude of “beating the system."
Enforcement command staff and officers from 13 departments where officers were killed were interviewed over the cause of the study. They agreed that recent words and actions from politicians showed disrespect toward law enforcement and was unacceptable. Conspicuously missing from the report was any self-criticism from police.
According to a Guardian database, 1,092 people were killed by U.S. police in 2016.
In a statement last year, the Black Lives Matter movement condemned the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, in the wake of the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, as a "tragedy."
"Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it," the movement wrote in a statement the day after the shooting by Micah Johnson, a U.S. Army Reserve Afghan War veteran. "Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman."
"To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible," Black Lives Matter continued in the statement. "We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us."