Another sort of “fundamental transformation.”
The nature of transformations of this sort are a topic for a much longer article for another time. The topic of this missive is the reality of the “Ferguson Effect, a reality Progressives absolutely must deny and suppress. They must suppress it because it damages their needs and desires in a way not often encountered. Progressivism always ignores reality and creates its own, and usually gets away with it with the help of Hollywood, the publishing industry, the media and much of the Washington DC establishment, Democrat and Republican. However, upon occasion, reality intrudes so forcefully, it is difficult to deny or ignore.
Such is the case with the criminal justice system. Criminals, as much as they tend to be objects of romance and admiration–as well as votes–for Progressives, tend to remain criminals. They are inherently anti-social, and given the opportunity, tend to steal from, beat, rape and murder Progressives as well as Conservatives. Conservatives tend to recognize this reality and prepare for it. Progressives tend to think themselves immune to the consequences of reality, and even when victimized, revel in their victim status and tend to defend the criminals that beset them.
Comprising part of reality is the Police. Progressives tend to hate them, thinking them all right-wing fascists, and like John Kerry, thinking them of a piece with military members, people too stupid to go to elite colleges, so they end up in Iraq, or driving about in police cars. The reality of police agencies actively seeking to hire people only just smart enough and no smarter, and of the federal government forcing cities to hire people intellectually and psychologically unqualified in order to fill racial quotas is hardly helpful.
The Ferguson Effect Is the very real tendency of police officers, on an individual and collective basis, to avoid any affirmative, pro-active action that is likely to get them in trouble. I do not mean improper or illegal actions by the police, but the kind of smart, incisive, and aggressive actions that experienced officers routinely employ to catch sneaky and clever–in a feral sense–people: criminals.
Among the most basic realities of human nature is that people will avoid anything that causes negative consequences, and will embrace that which causes positive consequences. One need not have a doctorate in psychology to understand this principal or to see it in action. Yet progressives must ignore this fundamental fact of humanity in order to deny the reality of the Ferguson Effect, which was named for Ferguson, MO. I addressed this issue in June of 2015.
As regular readers recall, Officer Darren Wilson was forced to shoot and kill Michael Brown, a drug addled robber who tried to get Wilson’s gun and repeatedly attacked him. A huge young man, Brown was in the process of charging Wilson when he was shot. Brown was black, and Wilson White, and that fact alone was to the advantage of the social justice industry, so Ferguson burned, and Wilson, despite being entirely justified and being cleared by the local prosecutor and even the Obama DOJ, was forced to resign. He and his family remain in hiding to this day. The DOJ has its hooks deeply into the Ferguson PD, and will never relinquish that suffocating grasp.
Police work always has political overtones. Line police officers understand this in terms of who is not arrestable. Who is politically immune from arrest? In most places, there are few or no people immune from arrest and the police are responsive to the will of the people. There are exceptions, like Las Vegas, where the police can and do murder at will, but in most of America, officers need not worry about getting into trouble for arresting the “wrong” people. Non-arrestable people that get arrested will have little trouble in getting the charges dropped, and the officers, quietly, learn a bit more about the politics of their city.
The police can do their jobs only when they can be reasonably certain they will not be harassed, disciplined or fired for doing what they were hired to do. It is often more subtle still. Officers quickly learn the paths to promotion. Being an excellent, honorable and productive catcher of criminals is not always a path to promotion. In many agencies, those promoted are often ass-kissers, people willing to praise their superiors and do whatever is asked of them, no matter how dishonorable. At the very least, in many agencies, remaining as low profile as possible is smart.
In every police force there are officers that were born to the job. They have the intellect, motivation, common sense, and desire to catch criminals and help people, and they stand out. As in all of humanity, most of the rest are average. They do their jobs, answer calls, do what is expected of them, but will never live up to the standards of the best. Then there are those who do as little as possible. They answer calls when assigned them, do their reports and investigations to minimum standards, and make the occasional arrest, but no more.
I remember a young officer that was initially highly motivated and aggressive. He worked hard and was very productive, which means he was one of the small group that took most of the criminals off the street. But as with the ancient Japanese axiom, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down, and he did. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t violate the law or procedure, others just thought he made them look bad, so he told me one day that from that moment onward, he would do only the minimum, and he did. He quickly became beloved of the brass, and his career took off.
Imagine, gentle readers, a city where the majority of the criminal class suddenly becomes untouchable, unarrestable. Imagine a city where officers have real reason to believe that if they arrest a black person, for they comprise most of the criminals in most of that city, they could not only be in disciplinary trouble, but could be arrested and prosecuted. Yes, I’m speaking about the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. How do you suppose police officers of reasonable intelligence would react?
They would react exactly as the BPD has reacted. Line officers do not trust the BPD brass, and they absolutely distrust and hate the prosecutor’s office. This is extraordinarily dangerous for public safety. Officers cannot reasonably believe that their supervisors will, or can, protect them from unreasonable accusations. They’re certain the police brass not only won’t protect them, but will be likely to throw them to the social justice wolves, and even black officers enjoy no racial advantage, putting on a badge tending to be seen in social justice thinking as an inherent betrayal of race and victim status, rendering black police officers not only politically useless, but politically dangerous. Their mere existence is a powerful rebuke to social justice reality.
Ah, and the prosecutors! What BPD officer can trust them? Every officer understands all too well that the prosecutors are more likely than not to prosecute them, not criminals. This is not a recent phenomenon.
Take stop and frisk: Terry v. Ohio. The Supreme Court’s Terry decision did nothing more than to recognize in law basic, absolutely necessary police practice. We hope that police officers will be smart and experienced, that they, in merely observing people, can detect criminals, and know when crimes might be about to take place, even as inexperienced citizens looking at the same people see nothing untoward. We want those officers to be able to approach those potential criminals, be able to hold them for a reasonable time, identify them, pat them down to protect their own safety, and determine if they are up to no good. If they are not engaging in criminal conduct, they’ll be on their way in a shirt time. If they are, their criminal intentions have been short-circuited, or they have been arrested.
Why is this so important? Don’t we want officers to catch criminals? To prevent crimes? To stop burglars before they break into our homes, steal our property and rape our wives and daughters? Don’t we want them to put criminals in jail where they are not committing crimes against the innocent?
Progressives don’t. They reject this reality in favor of their alternate, always under construction, reality. That’s why they fight relentlessly to prevent officers from making Terry stops. Indeed, in major cities and other places, most Terry stops end up involving black people because most criminals in those places are black. But most victims of black criminals are black people as well.
Of course the Ferguson Effect is real. Baltimore is experiencing an incredible increase in its murder rate, and the rate of other violent and petty crimes is going through the roof. Residents of New York City are horrified to once again see the lawless era of the past upon them. To those living in the real world, this is no surprise.
Is the Ferguson Effect operative everywhere and to the same degree? Obviously not, but my conversations with police officers from around the nation reveal that it is very much alive, and at the very least, formerly aggressive and highly productive officers–remember, that means taking a great many criminals off the street; it means far fewer innocent victims deprived of their property, of their sense of safety in their homes, beaten, raped, maimed and murdered–are now much, much more cautious, and less productive.
To deny the existence of the Ferguson Effect is to deny reality in favor of Progressive reality under construction. Does the Ferguson Effect mean more black victims of crime, particularly poor black victims? Of course, so they must be made to go away. But don’t Progressives claim to be the champions of such disadvantaged people? Of course, which is why Progressive reality must always replace actual reality.
Progressivism is at its core an attempt to change human nature, either by willing acceptance of progressivism, or by forcing everyone to embrace it by means of punitive law and social manipulation and pressure. But as Margaret Thatcher said, the trouble with socialism is that you always run out of other people’s money. The trouble with progressivism is that human nature always asserts itself.
Make it clear to the police that the public not only does not want them to catch criminals, but that they’ll be punished if they do, and the police will do what the public wants. It’s only human nature.