CHICAGO -- As some officials are stoking fears that heightened public criticism might lead to the death of police officers, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report Tuesday on how to address ambush-style attacks and other violence against police. Let's skip to the bottom line: It wasn't by silencing critics in the Black Lives Matter movement or anywhere else.
The report, released by the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), found that law enforcement agencies with higher educational requirements, an emphasis on conflict management, and video cameras in their cars were less likely to face ambush attacks. It also noted that most suspects in ambush attacks were white.
"The effect of requiring new officers to have at least some college education was a 54 percent decrease in ambush assaults," the report noted. Agencies that "evaluated new hires on conflict management" had an average of 43 percent fewer ambushes, while agencies with "a camera in every patrol car" faced 61 percent fewer ambushes, according to the report.
The study recommended "progressive hiring practices" for law enforcement agencies, which it suggested could "make for a safer department and community." It noted previous studies indicating that agencies with better educated officers are also "associated with fewer uses of force, more restraint in force encounters, and fewer citizen complaints."
"Our findings indicate that police departments that place a greater emphasis on education and conflict resolution may have officers who are more apt to resolve conflicts without using force and therefore officers in that agency, as a whole, may be less likely to be victims of retaliatory attacks or targeted acts of extreme violence such as ambushes," the report stated.
In August, some of the leading voices in the Black Lives Movement released a list of specific proposals for reforming police departments. They included requiring the use of body cameras on police and instituting rigorous training on such matters as conflict resolution, de-escalation and minimizing the use of force.
The DOJ report also found a connection between violence in communities and ambush attacks on police. It pointed to a "growing body of evidence" that violence by police officers against citizens "is correlated with violent crimes committed by non-police suspects."
Ambush attacks on police are rare. The study noted that their rate has been essentially unchanged for the last two decades, pointing to data covering the years 1990 to 2013.
"While concern has grown, all available evidence shows that officer felonious deaths and assaults generally have been declining since the crime wave began subsiding in the latter part of the 1990s," the report said. "As time passes, researchers, policymakers, and journalists alike will no doubt continue to monitor these trends for any remarkable changes."
The report was made public on Tuesday shortly before President Barack Obama addressed the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been scheduled to speak, but stayed in Washington because she was ill, according to DOJ.
"We know that the murder of a police officer in the line of duty is an assault on the entire community. However, when that murder is a result of an ambush, it also attacks the very foundation of our democracy," COPS Director Ronald Davis said in the report. "In the words of President Obama, this is totally unacceptable. And we must act to address this persistent threat."
Lynch said in a statement that the report "would serve as a critical base of knowledge as we work to defend our law enforcement and ensure our officers' safety."