EDITORIAL: The ‘Ferguson Effect’ — Just Another Excuse?

We don’t have to look beyond our very own city limits to see that there’s been a troubling increase in violence this year. From D.C. and Baltimore to Chicago, St. Louis and Washington, murder rates, after years of decline, have experienced a precipitous rise.

And as one would expect, the finger-pointing has already begun.

Law enforcement gurus cannot fully explain why murder rates are climbing saying that numerous factors are at play in different cities. Some officials believe that as the scrutiny of the use of force by police has taken the attention of the nation, that many officers have become less aggressive while criminals have become bolder and more brazen in their actions.

Other experts say homicides have spiked to unprecedented highs because of the availability of guns, drug sales and successful recruiting by rival gangs.

Finally, there are police officers who acknowledge that young men in poor neighborhoods, like those in Southeast and Northwest, feeling disenfranchised and hopeless as they witness luxurious condos being built around them and the posting of new high tech jobs for which they are far from qualified, have resorted to violence as a means of maintaining what’s left of their status, honor and credibility on the streets.

No matter what the reason, our police officers still have a sworn duty to “protect and serve” the communities in which they are placed. They still have a job to do. The question is are they doing it?

That said, that’s why we are troubled when we hear more and more law officials claiming that they feel handcuffed and unable to do their job effectively because of cellphone cameras and the so-called “Ferguson effect.”

As the popular myth goes, police officers are avoiding confrontations with suspects because of their fear of being showcased in “viral videos.” The result – an increase in violence and crime.

We consider the idea of the “Ferguson effect” to be nothing more than an excuse – a convenient notion bandied about by police authorities that helps them take the spotlight off of the true object of the many protests and episodes of public unrest lodged by groups like Black Lives Matter and others – that is, the police themselves and the constant killings of unarmed citizens.

One of the fundamental rights of U.S. citizens is that of peaceful protest. In fact, this country was founded on the notion of protest – just read the history behind the American Revolution.

Somehow we must gain control over our cities and make our streets safer, from urban America to small town U.S.A. And we believe that as city officials, state and country politicians and law enforcement experts continue to examine the recent swell of violence, that solutions will be found.

In the meantime, we can ill-afford our police officers to stop doing that for which they have been trained and hired to do – keep the innocent safe and arrest and detain those who engage in criminal actions.

It shouldn’t matter whether people have cellphone cameras or if officers have body cams on their person. If they’re doing their job, and doing it within the confines of the law, than justice will prevail.

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