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A new study shows that residents in predominantly black neighborhoods are "far less likely" to call 911 following incidents of police brutality. The study, published Thursday by the American Sociological Review, examined the impact of the 2004 beating of Frank Jude Jr. by off-duty police officers in Milwaukee. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the study shows that the dramatic dropoff in 911 calls is a sign of the "eroded trust" caused by officers' brutality.
"Something like the Frank Jude case tears the fabric apart so deeply and de-legitimizes the criminal justice system in the eyes of the African-American community that they stop relying on it in significant numbers," Matthew Desmond, the study's lead author, told the Journal Sentinel Thursday. Desmond conducted the study alongside Andrew V. Papachristos of Yale and David S. Kirk of Oxford, ultimately discovering the drop-off was "much higher" in predominantly black neighborhoods.
911 calls dropped by roughly 22,000 all across the city over the following year, despite the fact that the region was also experiencing a surge in homicides. Additional examples of a drop in 911 calls were discovered by researchers, including the period following the police assault of Danyall Simpson in 2007.
Unlike recent incidents of brutality that were captured by witnesses or body cam footage and promptly shared across social media, officers' brutality against Jude wasn’t widely known until the Journal Sentinel started its own investigation as part of a cover story published in 2005. Following the publication of the story, the 911 calls started dropping. The subsequent study published by the American Sociological Review closely analyzed roughly one million 911 calls in Milwaukee between 2004 and 2010, discovering that these calls also experienced a noticeable drop-off following incidents of brutality elsewhere in the country.
Just last month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker activated the National Guard amid protests surrounding the police killing of 23-year-old Sylville Smith. Smith was shot and killed while reportedly fleeing from police with a handgun in his possession, according to CBS News. Smith's memorial, as reported by the Journal Sentinel, was removed Wednesday by city officials.