Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Two new articles about the "Ferguson Effect" are out, each noting, in
the aftermath of the 2014 Michael Brown killing, an alarming increase
in violent crime in cities with large black populations. The increase
has been so pronounced, in fact, that a prominent criminologist who had denied
the existence of any such effect, has reversed his position, as
Michael Barone notes:
University of Missouri at St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld has had "second thoughts." Like many academic criminologists, he had pooh-poohed charges that skyrocketing murder rates in many cities in 2015 and 2016 result from a "Ferguson effect" -- a skittering back from proactive policing for fear of accusations of racism like those that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.Heather MacDonald, who has focused on this problem for a long time, cites similar statistics and also notes conversions, such as Rosenfeld's. But acknowledging such an effect is not the same thing as correctly identifying its source:
Now, after looking over 2015 data from 56 large cities, he's changed his mind. Homicides in those cities were up 17 percent from 2014. And 10 cities, all with large black populations, saw homicides up 33 percent on average.
"These aren't flukes or blips, this is a real increase," Rosenfeld said. "The only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect."
Despite this mounting evidence, the Ferguson effect continues to be distorted by its critics and even by its recent converts. The standard line is that it represents a peevish reaction from officers to "public scrutiny" and expectations of increased accountability. This ignores the virulent nature of the Black Lives Matter movement that was touched off by a spate of highly publicized deaths of young black men during encounters with police. As I know from interviewing police officers in urban areas across the country, they now encounter racially charged animus on the streets as never before.MacDonald goes on to assign the blame where it belongs:
The country's political and media elites have relentlessly accused cops of bias when they police inner-city neighborhoods. Pedestrian stops and broken-windows policing (which targets low-level public-order offenses) are denounced as racist oppression. That officers would reduce their discretionary engagement under this barrage of criticism is understandable and inevitable.Sadly, on top of it being "open season" on our police, it will, as Barone argues, be black Americans who will bear the brunt of this new, and completely avoidable national crime wave.
Policing is political. If a powerful segment of society sends the message that proactive policing is bigoted, the cops will eventually do less of it... The only puzzle is why many Black Lives Matter activists, and their allies in the media and in Washington, now criticize police for backing off of proactive policing. Isn't that what they demanded?