Cops Are Not Convinced Knockout Game Is a Thing

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Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images/Getty

Recent attacks in Brooklyn and elsewhere have people on edge, as police warned about a possible sick game called Knockout, or "polarbearing." But after the latest attack on Friday, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies who offered comment to the New York Times said they were not convinced the attacks were all part of a viral game. "We’re trying to determine whether or not this is a real phenomenon," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. But the Times' Cara Buckley noted that "there is particular concern within the department that widespread coverage could create the atmosphere where such a 'game' could take hold in New York."

Police charged the suspect in Friday's attack with aggravated assault as a hate crime, so they're clearly taking it seriously. But even with that attack in the background, most of the cops who spoke with Buckley did not support news stories declaring the game to be a growing national trend. Pittsburgh police characterized an attack there last year as a "random act of violence." And a police spokesman in Jersey City said of the game, "if there ever was an urban myth, this was it," after a victim of a random attack died there in September.

"Police officials cautioned that they had yet to see evidence of an organized game spreading among teenagers online, though they have been reluctant to rule out the possibility," Buckley reported.

"There is no evidence supporting this as a huge, viral number of attacks, Mike Males, a senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, told the Christian Science Monitor this week, before the latest attack in Brooklyn. He suggested the "game" could be "just a media label that could fit many of the hundreds of thousands of random attacks on strangers." But he said, "this tiny 'Knockout' pattern is part of a stronger pattern of random violence against strangers in this country." So, maybe not an organized thing, but still scary and depressing.