Targeting Blue: Why We Should Study Terrorist Attacks on Police
Terrorism is commonly thought of as attacks against the public (that is, unarmed, unsuspecting civilians), not against those who protect the public. Consequently, terrorist attacks targeting police officers have to date received little academic attention. However, the police have been victimized by terrorist attacks more so than one might expect. According to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), police have been targeted by terrorist groups in 11,500 of the 98,112 recorded incidents between 1970 and 2010, comprising almost 12% of terrorism targets. For comparison, private citizens were attacked in only about twice as many incidents; private citizens are the most frequently attacked target (see Figure 15.1).1 While police rank as the fifth most popular target type, they have been the focus of terrorists almost as much as the military, the government, and business entities. Given the relative popularity of targeting police, the lack of academic research to this unique target type is “surprising” (Freilich & Chermak, 2009, p. 145).