Progressives are always surprised when their policies inevitably blow up in their faces. They have no idea how absolutely foreseeable consequences could possibly have happened. It’s always a mystery. Why, it’s mystifying! And so it is with the nationwide spread of the Ferguson Effect. For those who have begun to drop by The Manor only recently–and welcome, by the way–the Ferguson Effect describes the reaction of America’s police to the Obama Administration’s–and progressivism’s–substantively successful effort to turn the public against them. While efforts to damage the police were underway long before the events in Ferguson, Missouri, that was the situation that caught on in the public’s imagination, and the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, cemented the reality of the effect. Police officers everywhere have been abandoning proactive policing as a matter of self-preservation.
In 2013, something changed on the streets of Los Angeles.
Police officers began making fewer arrests. The following year, the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrest numbers dipped even lower and continued to fall, dropping by 25% from 2013 to 2015.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department also saw significant drops in arrests during that period.
The statewide numbers are just as striking: Police recorded the lowest number of arrests in nearly 50 years, according to the California attorney general’s office, with about 1.1 million arrests in 2015 compared with 1.5 million in 2006.
It is unclear why officers are making fewer arrests. Some in law enforcement cite diminished manpower and changes in deployment strategies. Others say officers have lost motivation in the face of increased scrutiny — from the public as well as their supervisors.
“It is unclear.” It’s also generally unclear to rapists why their victims are upset, but to the police, and to rational Americans, it’s crystal clear.
The picture is further complicated by Proposition 47, a November 2014 ballot measure that downgraded some drug and property felonies to misdemeanors. Many police officers say an arrest isn’t worth the time it takes to process when the suspect will spend at most a few months in jail.
Another “reform” enacted by Mr. Obama, and by progressives across the nation has been to free felons from prisons, particularly drug offenders, especially violent drug offenders, and also to do as much as possible to decriminalize criminal behavior, particularly crimes committed in major, Democrat controlled cities by minority–particularly black–populations. This is commonly done because Progressives claim black people are unfairly singled out for arrest and conviction–statistical disparity–but they ignore one vital variable: blacks commit crimes far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. Also ignored is that most the victims of these criminals are also black.
A direct link between the crime pattern and the drop in arrests is difficult to draw, in part because the arrest data include minor offenses not counted in the tally the city uses to measure crime. Still, some city officials are concerned.
Hmm. It’s just soooo hard to figure out. Perhaps the LA Times could actually speak with some police officers…?
Those are dramatic numbers that definitely demand scrutiny and explanation,’ said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the Public Safety Committee and represents the Westside. ‘If crime was dramatically down, I wouldn’t have a problem with arrests going down. But if crime is going up, I want to see arrests going up.
Sooo hard to figure out.
[LAPD Chief Charlie] Beck said although arrests are an important component of policing, they are not the sole barometer of officer productivity. As an example, he pointed to community policing programs that he credits with reducing homicides in housing developments hit hard by violent crime.
Modern policing includes an array of strategies, such as swarming hot spots to prevent crimes from occurring, that may increase public safety without generating many arrests, he said.
For the LAPD, Beck said, modern policing also includes a different philosophy than the one the department embraced decades ago, during the Operation Hammer days when officers would stop, search and arrest thousands of people during weekend raids.
‘The only thing we cared about was how many arrests we made. I don’t want them to care about that,’ Beck said of his officers. ‘I want them to care about how safe their community is and how healthy it is.
The LA Times obviously can’t see the connection in Beck’s comments. Any LAPD officer reading what Beck has to say will certainly understand the Chief does not want his officers making arrests. He particularly doesn’t want them to make arrests of the wrong kinds of people, and if they do, they’re going to find themselves in a great deal more trouble than the people they arrest.
Police officers exist to deter crime by their presence, to arrest criminals when they commit crimes in the presence of the police, and to investigate crimes and arrest criminals. The police aren’t social workers. No one likes to get a ticket, or be otherwise arrested, but that’s what the police do, except in places like LA, and now, Ferguson, MO.
Nationwide criticism of police stoked by the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and other highly publicized law enforcement killings has had an effect on officers’ mindsets — but not to the detriment of crime fighting, Beck said.
‘I’d be denying human nature if I didn’t say police are very cautious about what they do now because of the scrutiny,’ Beck said. ‘But do I see it? I don’t really see things that make me think that the workforce as a body is retreating. I don’t see that at all.
This is a perfect example of the enormous chasm between police administrators and the officers that actually do the work of policing. People like Beck get and keep their jobs by faithfully parroting the political ideology of those to whom they own their employment. Thus is Beck mystified about the true causes of what can’t be denied. Thus does he speak of everything but the truth. And speaking of an inability to speak truth:
The decline in arrests had already begun before Brown, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white Ferguson police officer in August 2014, setting off nationwide demonstrations. After a grand jury declined to indict the Ferguson officer, protesters in Los Angeles and other cities marched through the streets.
“An unarmed black man.” Yes, an unarmed black man who, only minutes before coming into contact with Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson committed a strong arm robbery. Brown, an 18 year-old, 6’4”, nearly 300 pound, every day pot smoker and thug-in-training, when approached by Wilson who asked him to stop walking down the middle of a busy street, viciously attacked Wilson, trapping him behind the steering wheel of his vehicle, badly beating him, and trying to take his handgun. Wilson barely managed to retain it, and in the struggle, it went off, slightly wounding Brown in the hand. Brown ran, but after a short distance, turned and lowering his head like a football lineman, made a berserker charge on Wilson, who was forced to shoot Brown, only stopping him essentially at his feet. The grand jury did not indict Wilson because he acted in self-defense and entirely within the law. The social justice narrative about Brown–“hands up; don’t shoot”–was a lie; every bit of it. Even the Obama DOJ was forced to admit the grand jury was correct. Had Brown simply kept running, he would likely still be alive. Had he not robbed a store to steal cheap cigars to stuff with pot, he would likely still be alive. If he…oh, you get the idea.
Everyone is against whatever law enforcement is doing, so that makes an officer kind of hesitant to initiate contact,’ said one LAPD officer, who has worked in South L.A. for more than a decade and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. ‘A lot of guys will shy away from it because we’ve got the dash cams, we’ve got the body cams.… We don’t want it to come back on us.’ [skip]
But others say it is inevitable that some officers will pull back, taking care of necessary work while not engaging in the ‘proactive policing’ that could lead to more arrests — and to more encounters that turn violent.
‘Not to make fun of it, but a lot of guys are like, ‘Look, I’m just going to act like a fireman.’ I’m going to handle my calls for service and the things that I have to do,’ said George Hofstetter, a motorcycle deputy in Pico Rivera and former president of the union representing L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. ‘But going out there and making traffic stops and contacting persons who may be up to something nefarious? ‘I’m not going to do that anymore.
Sooo hard to figure out.
The recent decline in police activity is not limited to arrests: The number of field interview cards, or FI cards, written by officers has plummeted at both the LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The cards document some encounters between police and civilians that stop short of an arrest or citation. They are a tool sometimes used to keep track of gang members and other suspected criminals.
The number of LAPD field interview cards fell nearly every month in the second half of 2014, and the department recorded its lowest number of cards in nearly five years in November of 2014.
Field interviews conducted by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies have also been in steep decline, falling by 67% from 2012 to 2016. Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the drop-off is probably connected to the elimination of many gang enforcement teams due to budget cuts. But the trend is worrisome, he said, because the cards are useful in documenting the movements of potential suspects.
It would be ‘naïve’ to think the national debate over policing hasn’t affected the Sheriff’s Department, McDonnell said. Nevertheless, he said, his deputies are not shying away from potentially dangerous situations.
McDonnell is correct, but only in the sense his deputies are behaving like firemen. Proactive police officers don’t merely drive around waiting for dispatchers to send them on calls for service. They know their patrol areas and the criminals within them. They know where to go and who to watch out for, and where stopping and talking to people, filling out field interview cards and making Terry stops will do the most to suppress criminal activity. The Ferguson Effect absolutely turns police officers into firemen.
A primary progressive goal is to force progressive officers to abandon their most effective tactics. They do not want them to fill out FI cards. They don’t want them to make Terry stops–brief, entirely lawful stops and searches that often turn up drugs and illegal weapons–because such contacts most often involve black criminals, one of their natural constituencies.
California, and LA particularly, have seen a huge decrease in citations, particularly traffic citations:
The goal is not to write citations,’ Beck said. ‘The goal is to manage traffic flow, the goal is to create safe streets.
And how might that be accomplished if officers aren’t allowed to be proactive, or are punished for doing their jobs? Numerous studies have proved that targeted traffic enforcement–writing tickets–has a direct and immediate effect on traffic safety. The Ferguson Effect is also a direct reflection of political pressures, particularly when “community organizing” or related racist pressure groups are not only tolerated, but embraced by city officials and police administrators:
But declining arrest totals are not necessarily a bad thing, some officials and activists said.
If officers think twice about approaching people, some situations where police use force might be avoided, said Melina Abdullah, a leader of the local Black Lives Matter movement and chair of the Pan-African studies department at Cal State L.A.
‘If police are more cautious about making arrests that might be controversial, making arrests that might elicit protests, then that is a victory,’ Abdullah said. ‘We want them to begin to check themselves.
That’s precisely what officers are doing. They know who to avoid. They know that any arrest of certain people will become controversial and “elicit protests,” regardless of the facts. Why put their careers, and the welfare of their families at risk for people who will only berate, sue, even prosecute them? Do the minimum. Not only is it safer, they get paid the same either way. Oh, and declining arrest totals are surely not a bad thing for the two legged predators that prey on the innocent and law-abiding.
Herb Wesson, president of the Los Angeles City Council, said the numbers might be an indication that officers are trying different approaches. They could also be a sign that the city needs more police officers working at certain times, he said.
Right, Herb. Brilliant. Why didn’t the police think of that? Putting more officers to work where they’re most needed? Genius!
Why is this occurring? That, for me, is the critical question,’ he said. ‘You have all of these statistics, and now we need to break them down.
Sooo hard to figure out.
Fortunately, the Ferguson Effect is not reality everywhere in America. As long as officers reasonably believe their supervisors and administrators will support and defend them when they do their jobs within the law and the boundaries of the reasonable exercise of professional discretion, and as long as they reasonably believe local politicians actually want them to enforce the law and will not attack them when they do, these communities are as safe as human beings can make them. It’s no coincidence such communities tend to be in the red states.
Policing is difficult. In some places, police administrators weed out applicants based on race, gender, even IQ. That’s right: they don’t want officers that are too smart, only just smart enough. How smart is that? Only a few IQ points above average. Just how smart, gentle reader, do you want the officers racing to your home when criminals are breaking in, to be? Will just a tiny bit above average be comforting, or will be bit below average be sufficient?
Baltimore is a tragic example. Crime rates are skyrocketing and police productivity is tanking. There couldn’t possibly be a connection, could there? Watching fellow officers prosecuted in the death of Freddie Gray despite a total lack of evidence, officers have been leaving the Baltimore PD in droves, and Baltimore is having substantial difficulties in recruiting. Many people applying for inner city police jobs are not in any way the kinds of people any sane police administrator would want anywhere near the public.
Virtually no one not a police officer can understand the stresses of the job. I didn’t understand their full horror and effect until I was no longer a policeman. Working with the public was a pleasure. Working with police administrators and politicians, a horror show. Even today, nearly two decades since I last wore a badge, I wonder how many years of life police work has cost me?
The Ferguson Effect is very real. It is already destroying the quality of life in Democrat-controlled cities, and will continue to wreak havoc. The clueless in the media, in politics and police administrations will continue to be unable to understand why arrests, Terry stops, citations, and every other measure of police productivity continue to decline.
The policies and lunatic ideas that give birth to the Ferguson Effect can be undone, but that will require fundamental changes to the very nature of progressivism. Because progressivism cannot be falsified, because it cannot ever be wrong, more and more cities are going to resemble Detroit, and the progressive elite will continue to be mystified.