The main “take-away,” the one the authors hope the media will pick up and run with, namely, that the Ferguson Effect, as construed by conservatives and certain media outlets, is “spurious.” This is too strident, in my opinion, in light of the available evidence that *something* did change over the past year. It’s not as if the change was in aggravated assault, a notoriously unreliable classification subject to manipulation by police command. No, the change was in murder, hardly a trivial matter.
Lastly, the authors were unable to link crime trends to the sense that police had backed off in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. They write: “It is important to note that the city-level crime data used in this analysis cannot establish whether loss of legitimacy or de-policing is at the root of an observed increase in crime, or whether contagion induced by social media was responsible for transmitting these changes.”
That, of course, is the argument that cops have made. Police have contended that after the deaths of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray, and the intense public criticism of over-policing, they have made fewer discretionary street stops and scaled back proactive Broken-Windows-style policing, and as a result, they say, opportunistic criminals have entered the void and committed more violent crimes, like murder.
In light of all the killing in 2015, I’m willing to entertain this idea. I don’t understand why some seem to think that conceding this premise — that protest has had some effect on police — threatens the Left and its agenda. Massive street protests and intense sustained media attention surely have affected cops — indeed, many have said as much. We can grant that and still maintain the legitimacy of protest and our concerns.
We have lots of work to do. Refuting the so-called Ferguson Effect — which essentially asks who’s to blame, which conservatives like Mac Donald use to undermine legitimate democratic protests against abusive state practices — when the evidence actually does indicate an increase in violent crime, should be the least of our concerns.
February 14, 2016
Continuing with the "Ferguson Effect"
The other week I wrote about the so-called "Ferguson Effect." Alex Elkins has some more thoughts on this issue, over on his blog: