Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and riots ignited a movement to defund police departments across the nation, which experts said contributed to the alarming rise of Black American murder victims.
The deaths of Black Americans while in police custody sparked a movement in several major U.S. cities to defund their police departments in the hope that it would improve relations between the Black community and police officers and lower the number of Black deaths in America. However, 2020 FBI data shows that there was a higher rate of Black Americans murdered than ever before.
White Americans make up over 76% of the U.S. population, while Black Americans make up 13.4%, according to 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data. Although murders increased nationally from 2019 to 2020 regardless of race, Black Americans were disproportionally affected by the historic rise, according to FBI data.
Around 9,941 Black Americans were murdered in 2020, a 2,457 victim increase from the estimated 7,484 Black Americans who were murdered in 2019, according to FBI data. Comparatively, there were 6,093 White Americans murdered in 2019. This number rose by 950 to an estimated 7,043 White Americans murdered in 2020.
Manhattan Institute director of policing and public safety initiative Hannah Meyers argued the defund the police movement and the increase in murders are linked.
“Certainly, the protests and riots mid-2020 after the death of George Floyd followed a pattern of spiking violence that we’ve seen following past viral police incidents, such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray,” Meyers said. “This pattern has been termed the ‘Ferguson Effect’: police pull back while violent crime spikes precipitously.”
After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald warned that defunding the police and decreasing police presence in minority neighborhoods would result in an “increase in violent crime,” calling the murder increase the ‘Ferguson Effect.’
“The Ferguson effect is an issue almost exclusively in black communities,” Mac Donald wrote in a 2016 op-ed for the New York Times. “It is there where the Black Lives Matter narrative about racist, homicidal cops have produced virulent hostility in the streets and where officers are reluctant to engage in the proactive enforcement that politicians and the media relentlessly denounce as racist.”
Mac Donald was correct, according to the FBI data. In 2014 there were 6,237 Black Americans murdered. That number increased to 7,228 in 2015 and again to 8,022 by 2016, the FBI reported.
After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the Black American murder rate rose again by almost 2,500, according to the FBI.
“Today’s violent-crime increase – call it Ferguson Effect 2.0 or the Minneapolis Effect – has come on with a speed and magnitude that make Ferguson 1.0 seem tranquil,” Mac Donald said. “The rising carnage in the inner city is the consequence of this official repudiation of the criminal-justice system. The current tolerance and justification for vandalism and violence; the silencing of police supporters; and police unwillingness to intervene, even when their own precincts are assaulted – all send a clear message to criminals that society has lost the will to prevent lawlessness.”