Policing: Is the ‘Ferguson Effect’ real?
Finally, we have evidence the fabled “Ferguson Effect” may actually exist, said Juleyka Lantigua-Williams in TheAtlantic.com—but not in the way most people think. Conservatives claim the recent spike in violent crime in several large cities is the result of Black Lives Matter protests over high-profile police shootings. Officers are now so wary of being accused of doing something wrong, according to this theory, that they’re afraid to make arrests and do their jobs. But a new study suggests a different explanation. Researchers found that after a 2004 incident in which several off-duty Milwaukee cops stomped and beat an innocent unarmed black man almost to death, 911 calls to report crimes in the city “dropped precipitously, especially in black neighborhoods.” Homicides then jumped 32 percent. What the study suggests is that the rise in crime has less to do with “proactive policing” than with communities “losing faith in those who are sworn to protect them.”
“Our findings confirm what the people of Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities have been saying all along,” said study authors Matthew Desmond and Andrew Papachristos in The New York Times. Police brutality “rips apart the social contract” between law enforcement officers and those they serve, making black citizens unwilling to provide tips or cooperate with police. In Milwaukee, the 2004 beating stirred up anger and distrust going back decades, reminding citizens of many other ugly incidents in which black men died after they were shot, suffocated, or beaten by cops. “Each new tragedy contributes to and reawakens the collective trauma of black communities,” which deeply fear “state-sanctioned assaults.’’
Yes, a lack of “community cooperation” with police is a problem, said Neil Gross, also in The New York Times, but so is a decline in police morale. Another recent study found that after protests in Baltimore last year over Freddie Gray, who died in a police van, the city’s arrest rate plunged—and crime “went through the roof.” For proof that cops are now afraid to do their jobs, consider what just happened in Chicago, said John Kass in the Chicago Tribune. A female police officer severely beaten by an assailant high on PCP. From a hospital bed, she admitted she should have shot her assailant, but hesitated because she didn’t want to become “the next big story on national news.” Battered, bloodied, and bruised, hers is “the face of the Ferguson Effect.”