Over 2,000 police officers sustained injuries in the line of duty during the first weeks of demonstrations that began May 26 over the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department one day prior.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a professional organization of police leaders in the largest cities throughout the United States and Canada, released a report in October detailing the civil unrest that spread through MCCA members cities from May 25 to July 31, leading to 2,037 injured officers.
During that roughly two-month period, the report showed there were 8,700 demonstrations that occurred in 68 major cities and counties in the United States and Canada. In a single jurisdiction, the largest number of protests were in Los Angeles County and New York City, with each reporting over 1,000 events.
Of the 8,700 demonstrations, 574 were declared riots that included violence and other criminal activity. Ninety-four percent of major city police agencies dealt with a least one protest that included unlawful but non-violent acts, like disrupting a public roadway. For 79 percent of agencies, at least one demonstration involved violence, and about 72 percent reported officers harmed during protests.
While the report concludes that just 7 percent of demonstrations were violent and that most of the violent acts were committed by individuals or small groups, the staggering number of demonstrations were a challenge for law enforcement.
“Nonetheless, the sheer volume of protests, combined with the level of civil disobedience and existence of some ultra-violent events, created an extraordinarily challenging environment for law enforcement agencies,” the report stated.
The MCCA based their findings on law enforcement accounts of the protests from each jurisdiction, with the scope being limited to the experience of police in MCCA affiliated cities.
The organization represents 78 of the largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada. The MCCA serves 79.9 million people and includes a workforce of 251,082 officers and non-commissioned personnel.
The majority of cities that experienced civil unrest this year are members of MCCA. Of those cities, Houston had the largest number of people in a single event with 60,000 demonstrators. More than 62 percent of Portland, Oregon, demonstrations included violence, with more than 100 consecutive nights of riots.
The demonstrations also included 2,385 looting incidents, 624 arson incidents, and 97 police cars burned. The most common types of weapons used by demonstrators during violent attacks were rocks, bricks, frozen water bottles, fireworks, and wooden, metal, or plastic bats.
“One agency reported dumpsters, trash cans, trees, furniture and vehicles being set on fire,” the report stated. “In many cities, city hall, as well as other iconic public buildings and federal courthouses were targets of arson.”
Throughout the 10 weeks listed in the report, over 16,200 people were arrested for crimes related to the demonstrations, but more than half of the police agencies said local attorneys declined to prosecute the cases.
The report stated that, “In some instances, prosecutors refused to charge those arrested for felony crimes committed during the protests despite the availability of video evidence and suspect confessions.”