Survey of 382 U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies Shows Far Greater Concern about Anti-Government Extremists than about Islamic Terrorists

by Noel Brinkerhoff, Ask a cop what kind of extremist they’re most concerned about and the answer is likely to be those opposed to the government, not Muslim terrorists. A survey of 382 law enforcement agencies from around the United States asked officers to list the main violent extremist threat their agency faces. Anti-government extremists were listed more than any other by far: 73.8%. Al Qaeda-inspired extremists came in a distant second, at 39.3%. “Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face,” the survey’s authors, Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, wrote in their report (pdf). Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and associate professor of the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, added that law enforcement “perceive violent extremism to be a much more severe threat nationally than the threat of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions.” The survey also revealed that a large majority of law enforcement agencies rank the threat of all forms of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions as moderate or lower (3 or less on a 1-5 scale). Coming in at third and fourth place as the most violent threats that law enforcement face were, respectively, environmental extremism (33%) and racist extremism (24.3%). The researchers conducted the survey in 2014 in conjunction with the Police Executive Research Forum.


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