Many people are familiar with the phrase, “Ferguson Effect” as it applies to policing; the name born from the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
It applies to the belief that police officers have backed away from their normal pro-active law enforcement and that while police still respond to 911 dispatches, they have curtailed their pro-active, self-initiated action.
Studies on the topic are mixed; some say it's non-existent while others report that it affects seventy-two percent or more of the nation’s law enforcement. Most politicians and police administrators either ignore or have no comment, others flatly deny the statistics.
Officers, themselves won’t talk about the problem outside of their own circle, making this a police political ‘hot potato.’
There is no doubt that crime in inner cities has skyrocketed; Chicago alone has had over 1,700 shootings so far this year and pro-active arrests have dropped.
This does not mean that officers have withdrawn from inner city patrols, nor have they abandoned high crime areas or enforcement in general. However, history over the past several years has clearly proven that police actions, primarily shootings, were often being adjudicated not only by social media but from the political bully pulpits without all the facts.
“Behind the Badge” is brought to you in part by the Spooner Police Foundation.
Law enforcement personnel are not political, but politicizing them has become commonplace. This current habit of portraying the police as the bad guys, racist, bigots and more, has become standard operating procedures on the evening news and social media.
The effect this has on the human officer has been demoralizing, causing even the most dedicated to question if the job is worth it.
Whether real or perceived, the law enforcement community feels strongly under attack from all sides.
The standard by which officers actions have always been weighed has been the Reasonable Man. In other words, what would a reasonable man do? This appears to be waning within our highly charged social and political culture in recent years causing many officers to second guess split second decisions’ to conduct Monday morning quarterbacking while still involved in the Friday night game.
There is a common saying in the law enforcement community; “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried away by six”. But still, an officer has to accept the possibility that before the jury of twelve is even selected, there is always the chance they will be vilified, tried and sometimes convicted in the court of public opinion.
Few want to seek employment for a job if they thought that by doing so it could end in termination, prosecution, perhaps prison or to be demonized and vilified, not to mention their family’s reputation and heartache.
Thankfully there are still officers that continue to patrol the streets, even those in the high crime areas, and they continue to enforce laws and effect arrests even when surrounded by angry mobs, all with their cells phones out taking videos.
Many of these officers don’t put their survival skills first and foremost, but their political survival skills take precedent. Rather than being instinctive and reactive, some are questioning, second guessing, in the heat of armed or violent confrontation, this will lead to injuries or perhaps worse.
Recently a female offer suffered a severe beating and was hospitalized by someone she was attempting to arrest. Although the use of force was justified, she chose not to use any. She was quoted afterward that she feared what her family would be put through even though her body and dash cam videos all indicated that use of force was clearly justified.
This phenomenon is not only hurting the police and the public it’s sworn to protect, it’s indirectly being blamed for reduced police recruitment.
There are approximately 809,000 sworn police officers, which includes 44,000 part-time officers in the United States, a country of 348 million; most police departments are woefully understaffed.
With police officers numbering less than 1 percent (.22%) of our population, it’s a ‘thin blue line’ indeed and only getting thinner causing fewer and fewer people who are willing to be the person ‘Behind the Badge’.
About the Author: Al Hobbs is a Law Enforcement Correspondent for DrydenWire and writes on a wide-range of topics on Law Enforcement but focuses mostly on the human element of being a cop in his weekly segment titled: "Behind The Badge". Al brings a unique writing style that allows him to connect with his readers. You can read his introduction to DrydenWire here.
Al is a retired police detective from the metro Chicago area. He has been a Law Enforcement Officer at the City, County, State and Federal level in excess of 35 years. His career has taken him all over the nation and the world. Al has been involved in all aspects of criminal investigation as well as general police duties. He is once again on the street as an active LEO for a North Shore community, just North of Chicago in Illinois.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DrydenWire.com.