Protesting the police: anti-police brutality claims as a predictor of police repression of protest

Source: Heidi Reynolds-Stenson, Social Movement Studies, Published online: September 22, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Police face a unique dilemma when policing protests that explicitly target them, such as the anti-police brutality protests that have swept the United States recently. Because extant research finds that police response to protests is largely a function of the threat – and especially the threat to police – posed by a protest, police may repress these protests more than other protests, as they may constitute a challenge to their legitimacy as a profession. Other research suggests police agencies are strongly motivated by reputational concerns, suggesting they may treat these protests with special caution to avoid further public scrutiny. Using data on over 7,000 protests events in New York over a 35-year period from 1960 to 1995, I test these competing hypotheses and find that police respond to protests making anti-police brutality claims much more aggressively than other protests, after controlling for indicators of threat and weakness used in previous studies. Police are about twice as likely to show up to anti-police brutality protests compared with otherwise similar protests making other claims and, once there, they intervene (either make arrests, use force or violence against protesters, or both) at nearly half of these protests, compared to about one in three protests making other claims.