Issues in Law Enforcement Final
The Ferguson Effect
Over the past few years, law enforcement in the United States has become under intense examination from the public for deadly force incidents on unarmed black civilians. On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot by Officer Daren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. This incident sparked weeks of civil unrest in Ferguson, a Department of Justice investigation into the police department's practices, protests throughout the United States, and enormous coverage by the media (Nix & Pickett, 2017, p. 25) Eventually, Officer Wilson was cleared of federal wrongdoing. This angered a lot of people, not just those in Ferguson, but all around the country. Because of the high media attention from the riots and protests, the Michael Brown shooting has paved the way for use of force incidents to not go unnoticed by the media. “In the months that followed, similar incidents ensued in other cities across the nation – including Cleveland, North Charleston, Baltimore, and Baton Rouge – some of which were captured on video and rapidly disseminated on the Internet and by news outlets” (Nix et al., 2017, p. 25).
“Today, the ease with which citizens can use cellphones to record the police, coupled with the widespread use of social media, have made it easier than ever to scrutinize officer actions” (Wolfe & Nix, 2016, p. 2). Since the early 1990’s, the crime rate in the United States has been on a persistent steady decline. After, the Ferguson shooting happened, and it seems like there’s an incident involving police regarding abuse of force on civilians regularly being acknowledged by the media and Internet. “Scholars have argued that the seemingly constant negative publicity in the news regarding questionable police practices has fueled a legitimacy crisis, such that a growing segment of the population has become less trusting of the police and less willing to accept their decisions” (Nix & Pickett, 2017, p. 1). Due to the affluent attention involving use of force incidents, law enforcement around the United States feel as if they have to be careful with their proactivity or else they’ll be a part of another Michael Brown incident gone viral.
This speculation of a police officer’s hesitation to be proactive can otherwise be known as “de-policing.” Many scholars use the concept of de-policing in various ways to describe the phenomenon of the “Ferguson Effect.” Wolfe & Nix (2016) state “As a result, high-profile citizen deaths at the hands of the police have caused such widespread negative attention that some argue it is causing police officers to withdraw from their duties in order to avoid being accused of excessive force or racial profiling a phenomenon referred to as the ‘Ferguson Effect’” (p. 2). Shjarback, Pyrooz, Wolfe, & Decker (2017) state the “Ferguson Effect” is related to the collective connection between public scrutiny, de-policing, and crime. The “Ferguson Effect” doesn’t have to...