“Trying to Hide the Rise of Violent Crime”

That’s the headline of an excellent article by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal.  Here’s an excerpt.

Murders and shootings have spiked in many American cities—and so have efforts to ignore or deny the crime increase. The see-no-evil campaign eagerly embraced a report last month by the Brennan Center for Justice called “Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis.” Many progressives and their media allies hailed the report as a refutation of what I and others have dubbed the “Ferguson effect”— cops backing off from proactive policing, demoralized by the ugly vitriol directed at them since a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Americans are being asked to disbelieve both the Ferguson effect and its result: violent crime flourishing in the ensuing vacuum.

. . .

Critics of the Ferguson-effect analysis ignore or deny the animosity that the police now face in urban areas, brushing off rampant resistance to lawful police authority as mere “peaceful protest” … Now cops making arrests in urban areas are routinely surrounded by bystanders, who swear at them and interfere with the arrests. The media and many politicians decry as racist law-enforcement tools like pedestrian stops and broken-windows policing—the proven method of stopping major crimes by going after minor ones. Under such conditions, it isn’t just understandable that the police would back off; it is also presumably what the activists and the media critics would want. The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.

The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the “root causes” theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven’t dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.

. . .

To acknowledge the Ferguson effect would be tantamount to acknowledging that police matter, especially when the family and other informal social controls break down. Trillions of dollars of welfare spending over the past 50 years failed to protect inner-city residents from rising predation. Only the policing revolution of the 1990s succeeded in curbing urban violence, saving thousands of lives. As the data show, that achievement is now in jeopardy.

There’s more at the link.  For those who don’t have a subscription to the WSJ, do a Google search on the article’s title to get behind the paywall.  Also, here’s another discussion of the report in the American Thinker.

Let me say at once that I agree with much of Ms. MacDonald’s analysis:  but I think she’s left out two major elements of the equation that together shed additional light on the situation.

First, consider that the Obama administration has consistently taken an anti-police position when it comes to law and order and their enforcement.  From the infamous Prof. Gates arrest controversy to his most recent dismissal of the so-called ‘Ferguson effect’, the President has set an anti-law-enforcement tone.  Coming from a former ‘community organizer’, this is perhaps not surprising . . . but it’s adding to the problem.  When protesters on the street believe that they have the backing of the highest office in the land, and can therefore disregard, disrespect and disobey law enforcement officers at will, we have the makings of a very dangerous situation indeed.

Second, distrust of law enforcement is widespread, and for good reason.  Look at how many police officers have overstepped the bounds of what is properly considered ‘law enforcement’ and have become oppressors of the community, rather than its protectors.  The ‘Ferguson effect’ didn’t arise in a vacuum, but in a situation where police were seen as tools of an oppressive, discriminatory local government rather than impartial enforcers of the law.  Similarly, all too many cases of police brutality, overreach and authoritarian disregard for Constitutional and legal principles have made many people (including myself) profoundly suspicious of law enforcement in general.  Of course there are ‘good cops’ out there:  I number several among my personal friends, and I’d trust any of them with my life or that of my wife.  However, there appear to be more and more ‘bad apples’ in law enforcement that are rendering the entire profession suspect.  The list of recent issues is almost endless.  To name only a very few:

I could go on for page after page after page detailing every such incident, but what’s the point?  The reality is that American law enforcement officers and agencies in general have to an ever-increasing extent forfeited the trust of the people they’re supposed to ‘protect and serve‘.  They are no longer seen as impartial and fair in their approach.  I find this very sad indeed, given that I’ve served in two law enforcement agencies;  but even I now automatically trust only those officers whom I’ve come to know personally.  Those with whom they associate, and their agencies, also get a pass from me on the basis that I don’t think honorable, upright peace officers would be part of an organization where they could not be true to themselves.  Others, however . . . I’ll adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, and exercise due caution.

When you add those two elements to the ‘Ferguson effect’, you get a picture of a law enforcement function that’s in widespread disarray nationwide, across many agencies, local, state and federal.  I don’t pretend to know what the answer might be . . . but the problems are far more widespread and far deeper rooted than mere public distrust of police.  The rot has set in very deep, and to excise it might take more will and determination on the part of police and political leaders and administrators than their conduct to date has demonstrated.



  1. I agree that there is fault on both sides and I am surprised at how many police supporters refuse to acknowledge the unacceptable number of 'bad apples' in law enforcement – I have had 2 awful and 1 unpleasant encounter with local law enforcement in the last 3 years; they have gotten much worse here and many officers seem to have a chip on their shoulder and enjoy throwing their weight around.
    One state police officer issued me a ticket for a speed I couldn't have been going but there was no way to fight it; fortunately the local prosecutor seems used to it – if you call them, they automatically reduce the speed (but not the fine)!

    To me this is a more frightening trend than the Ferguson Effect since it extends well beyond the distorted reality of urban areas and accentuates the distrust between everybody and the government, not only at the federal and state level but also at the local level. While some state and local departments recognize that, many don't seem to and instead redouble their authoritarian tendencies which only tightens the spiral we are already seeing. Like you, the only law enforcement I trust are the officers I know personally, and even one of them I don't trust because I have seen how he behaves personally.

    This is becoming a time where you don't want to draw attention to yourself in any way – like you mention in your article on public incidents and concealed carry, if you aren't right there and able to intervene quickly, the best thing to do is leave the area as quickly as possible.

  2. It is not *the* answer, but an answer, perhaps only part of one, is that this is a symptom of a larger problem, or so I believe.

    What are politicians? They are (supposed to be) citizens entrusted with the power to make and change laws, to better serve their fellow citizens. What are policemen? They are citizens entrusted with the power to enforce the laws of the land.

    Citizens. When you erode and strip away the *rights* of the citizen, some form of *responsibility* goes with it. Rights and responsibilities are inextricable, two sides of the same coin. The right to defend oneself is unarguably restricted. So the responsibility thereof lessens, and folks begin to think “it's not my problem.” It's the police's problem. When things go wrong, crime runs rampant in the streets… it's the policeman's fault. And when he finally arrests “one of us,” it is still the policeman's fault, because he's the bad guy- he's not “one of us.”

    I know, there's no good logic to it. But that's how I see it. I have family members who serve, who are actual policemen, not thugs with badges. I know the “us vs. them” attitude goes both ways. What's lost sight of is that one word, responsibility, that is absolutely essential to each and every right secured by the Bill of Rights.

    We have a responsibility to follow the laws of the land. We made them! If we find those laws onerous, it is on us to change or remove them. But first we follow those laws, up to a point (see Declaration of Independence for clarification). Responsibility. That means report crime. That means defend our homes, our families, *our fellow citizens,* when threats appear. It means accepting the responsibility to protect ourselves, our homes and families… It means responsible firearms ownership, too.

    The burden of responsibility is the price we pay for our freedoms, our rights. If we are free, we are also free to fail, and can blame no one but ourselves when we fail all on our own. That's a radical idea these days. Maybe even revolutionary. But without seeing something this basic with clarity, it will be hard to hold the negative elements fully responsible when we don't accept it ourselves. It will be even harder to call our fellow citizens just that, and see them as our neighbors and friends, when we're locked into “us vs. them.”

    Don't expect a change overnight. But I believe there are plenty enough people who believe this out there, too. Accept the responsibility, folks. It's a remarkably freeing thing.

    I know. Preaching to the choir here. *puts away soap box*

  3. Peter, I have to take issue with your style. It's not just you, I see this in many news reports.
    Using "allegedly" or "seemingly" or "possible" to mitigate the seriousness of a criminal action, whether by an individual or a govt agency, when in fact the action is positively and multiply verified and is clearly criminal.

  4. @Duke: I agree, but we still live in a nation of laws, no matter how parlously administered. Unless and until a court of law has delivered a guilty verdict, guilt cannot be assumed, even though it may seem like an open-and-shut case. If I expect to be treated in that way, I have to treat others that way.

  5. I do know "the" problem. It is a lack of understanding as to what the Natural Law is which leads us to end up with too many rules and too many rule makers and enforcers. The natural law comes from God. Right and wrong do exist and can't be regulated away. When rule makers no longer follow the natural law they assume for themselves the authority of God and when the people no longer understand the natural law we let them. Look at our government. There is nothing it does not claim sovereign authority over, nothing. The U.S government even claims authority to decide, without trial, which of the 7 billion of us shall live. I do "know" what the problem is. It has a name. Its name is evil.

  6. If we look up the 9 rules of Robert Peel, we find part of the solution.

    PRINCIPLE 1 “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”

    PRINCIPLE 2 “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”

    PRINCIPLE 3 “Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”

    PRINCIPLE 4 “The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”

    PRINCIPLE 5 “Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”

    PRINCIPLE 6 “Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”

    PRINCIPLE 7 “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    PRINCIPLE 8 “Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”

    PRINCIPLE 9 “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

    Apparently 150 or so years ago, British policing was in a state somewhat similar to what the United States is now. I know that's perhaps painting with a broad brush, but I believe it to be broadly true.

    I'm NOT advocating a national police force. In fact, I believe there should only be one police force per county; that of the Sheriff (elected into office) and his assistants (Marshalls). No FBI, no State police, no local police. Why have duplication?

    I believe that adapting the 9 rules, or something similar, would go a long way towards healing our nations problems.

    Because if this does not happen, I believe that a repeat of the French Revolution could occur in the United States or whatever is left once it falls apart. And I would not wish to be in any sort of position of "responsibility" or in any uniform if that happens. Naturally, I'm not advocating violence; quite the opposite. I instead make this statement by way as a warning to the "powers that be." "Just keep pushing – and see where it gets you. You won't like it, but you won't dislike it for long."

    Pastor Glenn Arlt

  7. Your points are well taken, However, when it comes to the behavior you described in "Urban" areas, you and the author seem to not want to face the facts…

    The "Ferguson effect" really only applies in areas where the majority population is black. Whites (generally) don't do it, nor do indians nor sikhs, nor (mostly) hispanics, nor surprisingly, even arabs.

    It is also in the black areas that the rise in crime (and murder or attempted murder specifically) has happened, for the most part. Your author dances around the fact with the terms "urban" and "Economically disadvantaged", but fails to recognize the fact that these people live in these poor neighborhoods because of their culture and approach to life. Yes they are poor. They live off of welfare or by selling drugs or other crime. They may be unemployed, but to a large extent that is because of their chosen lifestyle. Many blacks don't live in those neighborhoods and are gainfully employed, with nice homes and such. Those folks can pass a drug test and therefore can be gainfully employed. They can also show up for shift work, and can see far enough into the future to live well.

    But face the facts. Say the word "Black". Be realistic, and place the blame where it belongs, on the underclass that welfare and drugs makes possible.

    Until we as a society does so, we cannot fix the problem.

    Go ahead, call me racist if you choose. Doesn't change the facts of the demographic that is causing the issue.

  8. Your note about forfeiture by the police needs to be expanded. In 2014, civil forfeiture by the police exceeded the losses from burglaries. If they weren't "the government", we'd describe what is happening as organized crime, and expect the justice system to fight it. Instead, we're expected to be "good citizens" and cough up our (in my view, illegal) toll.

    — Steve

  9. One correction. It was not the Albuquerque police department that was sued. It was the Deming Police Department, the Hidaldgo County Sheriff's department, and the Silver City Gila Regional Medical center. Officers from the Deming PD called in a K9 officer (who was over two years past any certification or qualification for either him or his dog) from a neighboring county in order to secure the warrant to invasively search Mr. Eckert, despite Luna County having multiple K9 officers from four different agencies (city, county, two federal) much closer. Said warrant was for Luna County only, but the officers decided to take Mr. Eckert to a -third- county, Grant County, to use the medical facilities there, when the Deming hospital refused to conduct the search on moral and ethical grounds. At the time the searches were performed, the warrant had already expired, yet repeated searches of escalating invasiveness were performed over and over.

    Mr. Eckert has already won his lawsuit against Deming PD, although I halfway doubt if they'll ever pay him. As far as I know, the suits against Hidaldgo County and the Gila Medical Center are still on-going.

    Albuquerque's bad, but this one wasn't on them.

  10. Pastor Glenn,
    One minor point: There are cities that overlap counties, and cities that have taken over county functions because the city takes up the entire county and more. I would argue that in those cases, having a separate police department for the municipality is reasonable (especially when you have two sheriffs who don't get along and one refused to cooperate with the other.)


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