Australia shooting highlights global rise in anti-police sentiment, from US to Hong Kong
- Citizens may be frustrated over political issues, such as lockdowns and vaccine laws, and their violent behaviour may be just frustration towards government
- Anti-police ideologies are also capturing the attitudes of those in society who are frustrated with how they perceive police to be conducting themselves
Our research shows attacks on police are increasing both in Australia and internationally, which may be a result of growing civil unrest.
For example, anti-lockdown protests produced the “most violent” protests in Australia’s Victoria state in 20 years, putting at least nine officers in hospital.
Rise of ‘anti-police’ sentiment
Understanding why these assaults are occurring is key to preventing further harm to police officers.
There are several potential catalysts for this “anti-police” ideology and consequent behaviour. First, citizens may feel frustrated about political issues, such as Covid lockdowns and vaccination laws. Here, anti-police behaviour, such as violence and lawbreaking, are a by-product of frustration towards the government. The police are simply the most present and visible government representative.
Second, and more concerning, are that anti-police ideologies are capturing the attitudes of those in society who are frustrated with how they perceive police to be conducting themselves.
What do assaults on police look like?
The public rely on the police to protect them from harm. But there has been an increasing rate of attacks on police officers. Moreover, these attacks are becoming more violent and serious.
Research found that 31 per cent of Australian police fatalities between 2001 and 2019 were the result of assaults. Like the recent incident, almost all cases involved shootings.
Research into officer injuries found that officers were more likely to sustain injuries with physically aggressive suspects, and young, offenders who had consumed alcohol/drugs in the early hours of the weekend were more likely to resist officers.
When assaults on police officers occur, they can have devastating consequences for a wide range of people. Aside from the physical impact (such as injuries, permanent disabilities, or even death), assaults on police officers can have psychological impacts (such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression).
Subsequently, these physical and psychological consequences carry an economic burden. These costs can include medical, legal, and wage costs among others. The cost of police assaults are likely to be much higher when considering economic impacts beyond the officer themselves (for example, the economic impact on colleagues, family, and friends as well as organisational costs such as low morale and high staff turnover).
The role of police requires them to encounter some of the most violent and dangerous situations. Understanding attacks on police will help identify ways to reduce the impact of harms and prevent such incidences from occurring. We need to better understand these situations so we can protect those who protect us.