Queensland shootings highlight increase in anti-police sentiment around the world | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Queensland shootings highlight increase in anti-police sentiment around the world

In an article published in The Conversation, UniSC Criminology academic Dr Kelly Hine and  doctoral candidate Katie Davenport-Klunder say while attacks like the deadly ambush on police at a bush property in south-western Queensland are relatively rare in Australia, there has been a significant rise in anti-police sentiment and violence around the world.

In an horrific incident on Monday night, two police officers and a member of the public were fatally shot in an ambush attack in Queensland. Another two officers were injured in the attack.

Our research shows attacks on police are increasing both domestically and internationally, which may be a result of growing civil unrest.

Data prior to the COVID pandemic revealed that civil unrest had doubled globally in the past decade, including an increase in violent riots and demonstrations. This tension between authorities and the public is thought to have intensified further during the COVID pandemic.

Serious assaults against police appear to be more common and more violent, with recent protests (such as Black Lives Matter, anti-lockdown, and #defundthepolice) intensifying conflicts between sections of society and police.

For example, anti-lockdown protests produced the “most violent” Victorian protests in 20 years, putting at least nine officers in hospital.

The rise of ‘anti-police’ sentiment

This phenomenon is not unique to Australia. In the US, officers have been shot and police stations burnt down by protesters. In Hong Kong, violent and organised protesters have attacked and beaten officers with umbrellas, batons, and bricks. And in the UK, the Metropolitan Police recently reported a 38% increase in assaults on officers during high-profile protests. 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.

The Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency predicts distrust in “big government” to be a major policing challenge post-2020. There is growing concern about groups or individuals who act violently towards police to express these attitudes, leading to the injuries, assaults, and even homicides of Australian police officers.

This is also exacerbated by widespread social media access and conspiracy-driven extremism.

This article is published from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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