Cause and (Ferguson) Effect?
Crime data released by the FBI last week show that murders increased by 6.2% in the first six months of last year. The increase seemingly validates a speech made by FBI director James Comey at the University of Chicago Law School on Oct. 23. “Far more people are being killed in America’s cities this year than in many years,” Comey stated. “And let’s be clear: Far more people of color are being killed in America’s cities this year. And it’s not the cops doing the killing.” The cause? “Comey has suggested the increase may be partly due to what police officials call the ‘Ferguson effect’ — a greater reluctance on the part of police officers to engage with suspects for fear of being criticized for alleged abuse or discrimination,” explains The Wall Street Journal.
The so-called Ferguson effect refers to the shooting of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, and the subsequent rioting that followed. The ongoing unrest was engendered in large part by an utterly irresponsible mainstream media that enshrined the “hands up, don’t shoot” lie thoroughly debunked by a grand jury, and a subsequent Justice Department civil rights investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Both exonerated Wilson, but the lie itself lives on.
Comey was not the only Obama administration official taking that stance. Last November, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Chuck Rosenberg said Comey’s assessment was “spot on.” “I’ve heard the same things,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s worth talking about. I don’t know if it will turn out to be right or wrong. That’s why Comey called for better data. The data that we have is limited. It just is.”
Not any more. According to released figures, murder has increased 9.9% in the Midwest, 8.6% in the South, and 1.3% and 1.6% in the Northeast and West, respectively. Nonetheless, the Justice Department pushed back, with spokesman Patrick Rodenbush insisting “it is too early to draw any long-term conclusions,” further noting the overall violent crime rate remains historically low.
Low overall crime rates are likely to bring little solace to those in the eye of the criminal storm. As Heather Mac Donald chronicled last May, “gun violence” is skyrocketing in a year-over-year comparison of cities like Baltimore, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Atlanta, Los Angles, New York and Chicago. MacDonald also notes that St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson refers to the Ferguson effect, which he described as police “disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity,” allowing the criminal element to feel “empowered.” Thus in many of the same cities, arrests have decreased substantially.
The cause and effect is a double dose of reality. First: “Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests,” Mac Donald explains. Second: “Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice.”
The Left’s “solution” to the problem? More gun control measures — apparently by any means necessary. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, for one, made that clear when she told congressional lawmakers that Barack Obama’s executive actions are “consistent with the Constitution” and “laws passed by Congress.”
Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) wasn’t buying Lynch’s assertion. “It’s clear to me that the American people are fearful that President Obama is eager to strip them of their Second Amendment rights,” he said. “Let me be clear. The Second Amendment is not a suggestion.”
Naturally, Democrats defended the executive overreach. “No one is immune from gun violence,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), “whether you are a congresswoman trying to meet with your constituents named Gabby Giffords, whether your children go to elementary school in the wonderful suburban community called Sandy Hook, whether you’re just simply going to movies, or going to a community college, or sitting in a Charleston church.”
Mikulski is apparently immune to both irony and reality. With the possible exception of Giffords, every other incident was one where the shooter could kill with impunity because victims had no way to defend themselves. For sentient Americans, it remains beyond comprehension how progressives believe any criminals will abide by any gun control laws. And if there is anything that demonstrates their complete disconnect with reality more than posting signs or issuing public edicts about “gun free zones,” one is hard-pressed to imagine what it is.
Which brings us to Chicago. Despite having some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, the Windy City is now America’s foremost example of an urban dystopia. One where only 10 days into 2016, more than 100 people had been shot, including 19 who were killed (the number is up since then, too). During the same period last year, 40 people had been shot, with 9 people killed. Last year, Chicago was the nation’s homicide leader with 468 murders, compared with 416 in 2014. That represents a 12.5% increase. 2015 also saw an astronomical 2,900 shootings, representing an increase of 13% over 2014, and a 29% increase since 2013.
The latest carnage won’t show up until next year’s Justice Department statistics are released.
Adding insult to injury, on Jan. 20, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel headlined the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he spoke about how to reduce violence and restore the peoples' trust in the police. That would be the same Rahm Emanuel whose administration withheld for more than a year damning video evidence showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald as he lay on the ground. Moreover, the administration paid McDonald’s family $5 million to keep the video under wraps, so it wouldn’t negatively affect Emanuel’s re-election chances. A judge ordered its release, and Van Dyke was charged with murder.
As a result, Emanuel has zero credibility with the people of Chicago, especially black residents living in de facto war zones. Moreover, it’s impossible to say when, if ever, the overwhelming majority of decent police officers, whose reputations have taken an almost irreparable hit, will be greeted with anything other than suspicion and hostility by those residents. Residents who need their protection the most.
Unsurprisingly, in an editorial entitled “Political Lies About Police Brutality,” The New York Times referred to Comey’s remarks as “incendiary” and insisted there is “no data suggesting” the Ferguson effect is real. Rather, Comey was doing nothing more than playing “into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public.”
Now statistics are available, and there is little doubt the Left will do whatever they can to assure Americans they have nothing to do with the Ferguson effect, and that police brutality is a widespread phenomenon. Yet whether one uses the term Ferguson effect or not, one thing is certain: This cycle of “greater reluctance on the part of police officers to engage with suspects for fear of being criticized for alleged abuse or discrimination” is likely to get far worse before it gets better. And the people who will bear the brunt the most are innocent black American men, women and children who will remain in the crosshairs of drug and gang violence, while the racial arsonists known as Black Lives Matter (BLM) exacerbate that cycle. A BLM movement dedicated to demonizing law enforcement, aided and abetted by Obama and other administration officials, who were “privately irritated” with Comey’s candor.
In the end it will be up to the people themselves to decide whether leftist-enabled police demonization, coupled with racial polarization serves their best interests. Unfortunately, it appears they will be forced to do so, even as the amount of mayhem and murder increases.