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April 8, 2016

New draft article, "De-Policing," seems to provide empirical support for "Ferguson effect" claims

I just came across this notable new article on SSRN titled simply "De-Policing," which seems to provide some general empirical support for what is now being called the Ferguson Effect. The piece, authored by Stephen Rushin and Griffin Sims Edwards, seems empirically sophisticated (though I lack the talents to check the empiricism), and here is the abstract:

Critics have long claimed that when the law regulates police behavior it inadvertently reduces officer aggressiveness, thereby increasing crime.  This hypothesis has taken on new significance in recent years as prominent politicians and law enforcement leaders have argued that increased oversight of police officers in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an increase in national crime rates.  Using a panel of American law enforcement agencies and difference-in-difference regression analyses, this Article tests whether the introduction of public scrutiny or external regulation is associated with changes in crime rates.

To do this, this Article relies on an original dataset of all police departments that have been subject to federally mandated reform under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 — the most invasive form of modern American police regulation.  This Article finds that the introduction of § 14141 regulation was associated with a statistically significant uptick in crime rates in affected jurisdictions. This uptick in crime was concentrated in the years immediately after federal intervention and diminished over time. This finding suggests that police departments may experience growing pains when faced with external regulation.

April 8, 2016 at 03:15 PM | Permalink

Comments

In the "no s**t, Sherlock" category. Amazing that we'd need a study to confirm this---but ah, the criminal-coddling mind abandons common sense.

Now that's not to say that oversight isn't important (it is), but bogus claims of police misconduct a la Michael Brown and Jamar Clark lead inevitably to cops thinking aggressive action just isn't worth it. For a really awful example of de-policing check out the sad story of the Seattle Mardi Gras riots.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 8, 2016 3:54:12 PM

The paper does not prove the Brutalization Effect does not cause or contribute to the Ferguson Effect. Indeed, there are times when an officer involved shooting is more brutal than an execution because the shooting was unjustified. Even if it was justified because of a split second mistake it can still be as brutal than the death penalty.

Posted by: George | Apr 8, 2016 9:11:13 PM

My understanding of the Ferguson effect was that by scrutinizing police at places like Ferguson, where the govt intervened because of illegal police practices and violations of civil liberties, OTHER police depts relaxed enforcement and crime increased.

The research you highlight suggests that we can keep a lower crime rate in the short run by allowing police to engage in illegal practices and tactics that violate constitutional rights. Are we really having a debate about that?

Further, it is challenging to specify the link between govt control of a police dept and crime rates. Is it govt control of police tactics, lower police morale because of being spotlighted for being incompetent/corrupt, turnover because some officers see the writing on the wall and new recruits take their places? People also have less allegiance to the law where the police and criminal justice system seem arbitrary and corrupt, and where citizens feel they are being treated unjustly. So the takeover of a police dept by the govt may reinforce those perceptions and result in crime temporarily.

Posted by: Paul | Apr 9, 2016 11:28:34 AM

I am from Ferguson. It is not now, nor has it ever been a "Ghetto" as described by the likes of dorks on NBC like Chucky Todd. The Ferguson Effect came about in 1967. Several girls in Ferguson Jr. High letter sweaters with a big F on the front rode through Steak N Shake in Jennings in a convertible and hung their bare legs over the sides and lifted their tops to show off their breasts. They then went to Riverview Steak N Shake and then Florissant Steak N Shake and then Chuck A Burger in Ferguson. The next day the girls from Jennings, Riverview and Florissant followed suit.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Apr 9, 2016 4:09:22 PM

At least no more stop and frisk! Worse than water boarding that stop and frisk.

Posted by: moron | Apr 10, 2016 7:56:08 AM

I have a lot of respect for police and law enforcement officers but the whole enterprise is too big, too expensive and too aggressive. We need to end prohibition on all controlled substances, abolish the DEA, abolish no-knock raids and asset forfeiture, and make the rules on use of firearms in self defense the same for both citizens and police and LEOs. Having said that, the appalling behavior of BLM activists and "leaders" like Sharpton and media people who fostered the hands up don't shoot meme after Ferguson has made matters much worse. And the public employee union mentality has infected most of law enforcement and is able to stops changes while driving up costs. Not sure how we fix this, what a mess [I am a student of history]

Posted by: nd smith | Apr 10, 2016 8:28:49 AM

"My understanding of the Ferguson effect was that by scrutinizing police at places like Ferguson, where the govt intervened because of illegal police practices and violations of civil liberties, OTHER police depts relaxed enforcement and crime increased.

The research you highlight suggests that we can keep a lower crime rate in the short run by allowing police to engage in illegal practices and tactics that violate constitutional rights. Are we really having a debate about that?"

This is typical liberal snark masquerading as erudition. No sane law and order person wants police to violate rights, and no, law and order types aren't advocating it. The reality, of course, is that in an any jurisdiction you will have violations, even where the police department is generally beyond reproach. When cops are nervous about being second-guessed or worse when their conduct is beyond reproach (e.g., Michael Brown or Jamar Clark), then it's only natural that there will be less aggressiveness. (For a particularly awful example, see the Seattle Mardi Gras riots---something which you libs don't give a rat's ass about.)

Posted by: federalist | Apr 10, 2016 1:55:48 PM

(Instapundit reader): I thought the Ferguson effect would be the result when local governments treat police as revenue generators, seizing cash and property and fining locals for piddling offenses, leading to public distrust and backlash.

Or is that too threatening to research?

Posted by: Bill Peschel | Apr 10, 2016 3:53:42 PM

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