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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/6/15

The "Ferguson effect" is just a ploy to reduce scrutiny of the police

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eprinted from The Guardian

The DEA and the FBI have both blamed an alleged 'crime wave' on the reluctance of police to do their job because of public criticism over use of force
Is the United States actually witnessing a crime wave?
Is the United States actually witnessing a crime wave?
(Image by Photograph: Andy Katz/Pacific/Barcroft)
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Without a shred of hard evidence, first FBI chief Jim Comey and now the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration are publicly claiming increased scrutiny of police officers from the public -- essentially Black Lives Matter and other protesters -- are the cause of a fictitious crime wave in the United States. Not only are their comments insulting and ignorant, the entire premise of their argument is false.

The DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg said on Wednesday he thinks Comey "is spot on" in remarks the FBI director made on 23 October, when he said "viral videos" and criticism of police officers are creating a "chilling effect" on police work and leading to more crime -- what some have dubiously called the "Ferguson effect."

Even though Comey admitted the next day that he didn't have any hard evidence to back his statements up, that didn't stop Rosenberg from wholeheartedly agreeing. The Washington Post reported: "Rosenberg said he believed the Ferguson effect could cause police to become reluctant to engage with criminals because of 'the concern, rightly or wrongly, that you become the next viral video.'"

As the Post noted, the theory has been disputed by everyone from Barack Obama and former attorney general Eric Holder to the National Fraternal Order of Police, "all of whom have said it is offensive to suggest that police officers aren't doing their jobs." It is actually offensive on multiple fronts -- and not just to police officers.

The idea that there is some sort of expansive crime wave is a huge myth, and the media has, by and large, done a terrible job at giving people perspective on a couple percentage points change in violent crime seen in some cities over a one-year time frame -- where crime has been at record lows. Crime is actually way down across the board when you look at statistics over the past two decades. The Washington Post's Max Ehrenfreund is one of the very few reporters to comprehensively look at crime statistics across the country. Here's what he found:

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)
 

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