Two different stories tonight, both questioning the conduct of police officers.
In the first, posted at www.slate.com, the writer opines that the reason there are so many killings by police is because they are trained to be afraid of the public. He says the “theory” is that officers must make high-pressure, last minute decisions, and if we punish them for making a few mistakes, then we disable them from doing their jobs; the “fact” is that there have been hundreds of people shot by officers who were unarmed, brandishing toy weapons, or mentally ill, and the only reason they were shot is because the officer was afraid.
Let’s entertain this “fact” for a moment. Let’s imagine that police are not trained to “be afraid of the public.” Let’s pretend that they all give the suspect the benefit of the doubt and expect everything to go just fine.
Scenario A: Officer Smith pulls over a stolen vehicle. As he approaches the vehicle, he doesn’t put his hand on his pistol – he’s sure it’s all just a misunderstanding, and maybe the driver is just a poor soul who really needed a vehicle. Turns out, Mr. driver is a repeat offender, and as soon as the officer approaches the vehicle, Mr. driver shoots him and speeds away.
Scenario B: Officer receives a domestic disturbance call. On his way there, he doesn’t call for back up – couples fight all the time, and it will probably be over by the time he gets there. Upon arriving, he politely knocks on the door. He’s met with a meth-addicted woman wielding an ax, and barely has time to duck as she wings it at him.
Scenario C: Officers are called to a college campus, where there’s a young adult in the square yelling incoherent words. The student has been clinically diagnosed with multiple personalities and manic-depression. As the officers try to talk to the student, he pulls what appears to be a gun out of his pocket. The officers are a bit startled, but it’s okay – this young man is just sick and confused – he’s not going to hurt anyone – it’s probably a toy anyway. Then suddenly the student fires a shot; and another – and two officers are down before the others scramble to tackle him.
The above scenarios may seem a bit far-fetched, but you get the point. If officers do not “fear the public”, they will most likely get shot. As much as we would all love to always see the world through rose-colored glasses, it isn’t realistic. The reality is that there are criminals out there who will do anything to get away. The reality is that severely mentally ill people are very unpredictable. And by saying “fear the public”, we do not mean that police should treat the public as their enemy. We mean that they need to go into every situation expecting the worst. If they don’t, they may get killed, and other civilians may get killed.
The mainstream media will always have us believe that the officer made the wrong decision; that there could have been an alternative. Who are we to say? Unless you have been a police officer, have been on patrol, have faced uncertain situations, have come face to face with criminals, you have no idea. As the saying goes, you must walk a mile in that person’s shoes before you can judge.
The second story, posted at www.journalgazette.net, asks if the “Ferguson Effect” is truly a real thing. The writers give a brief definition of the Ferguson Effect and “de-policing”, and then go on to claim that the rather than the decline in arrests being due to racial tension, perhaps it’s a correction in officer behavior. Perhaps they’re spending more time and attention on actual crime work and less on traffic stops and searches, which are not much benefit to the public. They’re really only for fundraising, according to the article. It ends with saying that the Ferguson Effect is an improvement on policing.
Surprisingly, the article is written by four people with backgrounds in criminal justice and sociology. Not surprisingly is that it was written for The Washington Post, which seems to take an anti-cop slant.
Without delving into too much methodology, let’s look at this simple trend: A handful of cases of white police officers shooting/killing young black men become front page news. Black people riot, Black Lives Matters is formed. Black Lives Matters promotes hatred against police. SPLC and the ACLU step in to “correct” racist behavior in police departments. Officers now at risk of losing their jobs if anything they do is labeled as “racist”. Officers begin second-guessing their actions. Crime increases.
It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? The Ferguson Effect is anything but an improvement.