Ferguson Effect

‘Ferguson effect’? Savagely beaten cop didn’t draw gun for fear of media uproar, says Chicago police chief

Personally I doubt if it’s just the negative media consequences.

The article goes on to note that there’s a dearth of evidence that the Ferguson Effect is having an impact on crime rates. But it’s worth noting if those in a position to know genuinely believe that saving yourself from being beaten to death could have negative consequences for you. In a world where all sorts of anecdotal info is being given a lot of credibility by the DOJ and others, it’s worth taking this seriously too.

If you kill someone, you should be scrutinized. So even if you believe this account or believe in this phenomenon, it doesn’t change how we should proceed.

I, for one, am skeptical that anyone who is really in fear for her life would decide not to shoot out of fear of public scrutiny. That seems like an incredibly weird balancing of values to me, especially when public scrutiny almost never leads to any serious negative consequences for the officer involved.

That depends on what “scrutinized” means.

f it means a group at HQ reviewing the incident, that’s one thing. If “scrutinized” means massive media coverage, demonstrations calling for your head, pressure on the local prosecutors to bring you up in court, and the DOJ to follow up with possible civil rights charges, department sanctions etc., then that’s very different.

I don’t think it is very different.

All of those forms of scrutiny are appropriate. There should, in fact, be way more scrutiny by local prosecutors of police shootings. Serious investigation of the taking of human lives at the hands of the state is an unalloyed good thing. If the day comes when it’s more than a fleeting rare unicorn that a police officer who did nothing wrong has her life substantially disrupted by overly aggressive prosecutors, then I’ll be concerned. But that day has not come.

And none of those forms of scrutiny would lead a rational person not to defend their own life. I continue to submit that if police are choosing not to shoot because of these factors, then that’s a good thing, because it means their lives were not truly in danger.

I think you’re trivializing the consequences for these cops.

Might depend on what you mean by “danger”.

Let’s suppose your perception is that you have a 10% chance of dying if you do X, and a 0% chance of dying but a 90% chance of having your life and career messed up if you do Y, it’s simply untrue that no rational person would do Y. People make these types of choices all the time. And a 10% chance of dying is “in danger” by my definition.

I call bullshit on the Chief’s version of what the officer told him.

And now that he’s made public remarks about what an employee of his told him in private, the employee is gonna have a hard time rebuking the Chief if he in fact was putting words in her mouth.

The cynical view is that the Chief saw a way to further an agenda without repercussion, while putting the animus on someone else who could not fight back. Kind of a standard police tactic, isn’t it?

So until we have more information, I’m gonna sit firmly on the fence about the accuracy of the Chief’s remarks.

As to the Ferguson effect, it sounds like a bullshit soundbite meant to spread FUD and to get people behind some authoritah.

I don’t think so. It sucks to be investigated and considered for prosecution, much less prosecuted. It sucks to have your name put in the media for something you may not have done. But you know what every single cop tells every single innocent person whose ever been charged or had their name dragged through the mud: tough shit. That’s how the system works, and there’s no alternative. At least cops aren’t being singled out for investigation because of their race.

I agree. It’s the 90% figure that’s wildly off. If you’re a cop who shoots someone, you have about a 1/1000 chance of having your life and career messed up, and even lower if you did everything right.

Here is some material that IMO bolsters my position: OPERATION SMOKE AND MIRRORS - In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

ETA: I am unable to find any news stories of a female CPD officer who was beaten at a car accident. Do we even know that this occurred?

Saying “tough shit” is quite different than saying their lives are not being “substantially disrupted”. Their lives are substantially disrupted, as are the lives of “every single innocent person whose ever been charged or had their name dragged through the mud”.

FWIW, I think the ability of prosecutors to destroy innocent people is also a terrible thing, and it would be great if that could be constrained as well. (I like the idea of a “proved innocent” option for verdicts, in which you get reimbursed by the government.) But the issue is bigger for cops, in that it has a constraining effect on their law enforcement ability.

OK, here’s where we disagree. It might not be 90% but it’s much much closer to 90% than to 1/1000.

Might have been 1/1000 some time in the past but nothing like that these days.

Assuming this is a serious question, you can find some more detail here (linked in the WP story cited in the OP).

In 2015, there were 1200 people shot and killed by cops, 18 cops charged, none convicted. So you are looking at more of 98.5% chance of not being chaged, and a 100% chance of not being convicted.

You’re citing from an opinion piece by a guy with strong views on the subject - never a good idea.

Just by way of example, it’s ridiculous to talk about the percentage of people convicted of killings committed in 2015 when you’re writing an article on January 5, 2016 - if there were going to be convictions for these killings it would take a lot longer than that. So this guy is clearly trying to mislead using stats, and it’s a mistake to trust anything he says (even if this wasn’t otherwise obvious).

Another theory:
the given explanation may be a cover story for the officer’s personal inability to take a life even when her own was threatened.

Years ago I saw dash-cam video of a gunfight between a cop and a perp. Except it wasn’t really a fight: the cop just could not bring himself to pull the trigger and shoot this perp, even as the perp fired round after round, finally scoring a hit and then walking up to the wounded cop to deliver a pointblank fatal shot.

I wonder if the OP’s story was actually another instance of the same phenomenon, i.e. a cop who just couldn’t bring herself to apply lethal force - not for fear of post-incident scrutiny, but for fear of knowing afterward that she had taken a life.

I should also add that from scanning through the guy’s link, it looks like a lot of those cop killings are people involved in car accidents with police cars, and a lot of others are people involved in shootouts.

“even lower if you did everything right.”

The media doesn’t care if you do everything right if there’s a mob of rioters mad about it.

If you have better stats, bring them up. I just grabbed the first link. Convictions isn’t right, I agree, as I know that the cop in the University of Cincinnati got convicted a couple months ago (completely based on body cam footage, if not for that, it would have been a justified shooting based on his reports on the incident.) But charges probably are pretty close.

You have numbers that would put it closer to say 95%? Do you have numbers that would put convictions at more than .1-1%?

If you are in fear for your life, and you stop to consider the maybe 2-3% chance taht your actions will be questioned, and the less than 1% chance that you will be convicted, then you are a shitty cop, and should never have been on the streets in the first place.

Wear your body cam. Make sure it is on. Don’t kill anything you don’t have to. Don’t beat anyone you don’t have to. You’ll be fine. Most cops want the body cams.

I agree. I wasn’t equating the two. I do not consider being investigated a substantial disruption. Charged? Yes. Persecuted by the media? Yes. Merely investigated by the DOJ or local prosecutors? Sucky, but not substantial, IMO.

Correct. But isn’t that the point? Indeed, in a free society, isn’t it more important to constrain the cops than to constrain the bad guys?

That might be fair. Now maybe it’s 1/100 or even 1/50. In my estimation, it is still pretty small and not nearly high enough to warrant trading one’s life for even if the risk to one’s life is small.

I don’t believe that. Generally speaking, the media tends to assume the official account is correct and that the victim had it coming until proven otherwise. It takes a dashcam video directly contradicting an officer’s account before the media will diverge from the official narrative.

No. At current levels of risk it’s much more important to constrain the bad guys than to constrain the cops.

The risk to an average law-abiding person (of any ethnic background) of being harmed by bad guys is far far higher than the risk of being harmed by cops.

If there were very few bad guys and corrupt cops were roaming the streets attacking people with impunity, you would be right. But that is not the situation these days, rhetoric from certain quarters notwithstanding.

If the sole goal of constraints on law enforcement is to keep the improper harm they cause less than the improper harm caused by criminals, then that would be correct. But I, and I hazard to guess most people who live in free societies, regard a cop murdering someone or robbing someone to be much worse than a civilian doing so, for a whole host of reasons.

I would go with the first sentence.

Thank you. I didn’t notice a link in the original story.