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Blacks Lives Matter, BLM, social movements, social media, policing, policymakers


In part via skillful use of social media, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become among the most influential social movements of the past half century, with support across racial lines, and considerable financial backing (Fisher, 2019). Will this translate into public policy reforms which save Black lives? After all, higher education is a key institutional backer of BLM, and a considerable literature dating back decades (e.g., Lindblom & Cohen, 1979) casts doubt on the effectiveness of social science in solving social problems, for numerous reasons. Often, the best social science is simple counting. This paper makes two unique contributions. First, using scholarly citations, we show empirically that social scientists focus far more attention on research regarding BLM related activism than on research regarding how to improve policing in ways that might save Black lives. Second, to encourage more research regarding saving Black lives, we update and enlarge a prior peer reviewed study (Bearfield, Maranto, & Wolf, 2020) which ranks big city police departments by their effectiveness in keeping Black (and non-Black) citizens safe. We conclude with ideas for future research and policy reform. Police commissioners and other policymakers need to be asked the right questions to drive reform and enact better policies to enable reforms to succeed. Currently, social science is failing to contribute much to either.

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EDRE Working Paper

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