Who’s to Blame for the “Ferguson Effect”?

Jamal-Jones-1

The Daily Caller ran a piece this weekend by a cop who apparently works on the West Coast somewhere explaining how Ferguson has made his job more difficult because of the different ways the citizenry reacts to the police post-Ferguson. The whole article is worth reading for a cop’s perspective on what happens when the citizenry loses respect for cops. The central thesis of the anonymous police officer’s piece is that the media is largely to blame for the disintegration of respect for police.

This issue is one of the most critical issues facing the country today. Liberal fantasists like to assume that society is held together by government programs and displays of force of various kinds. The reality is that society – especially one as large as ours – is much more held together by invisible bonds of cohesion that are formed by shared assumptions and values. No amount of governmental regulation can replace these when they have dissolved. It is simply not possible, in the absence of totalitarian levels of force, for the government to effectively police a populace that has lost widespread respect for the government’s legitimacy in the first place.

This is important in all facets of civic life but perhaps nowhere is it more important than in the citizenry’s interaction with its police force. Respect for the badge and the authority it represents is necessary to avoid one of two extremes: descent into chaos or acceptance of levels of police force and presence that approach totalitarianism. So I view the complaint the officer is raising here with very significant amounts of legitimacy and alarm.

Where the piece goes awry, however, is in placing all of the blame on the media coverage of Ferguson. Definitely the media got some facts wrong in the fog of war that surrounded the first days after Michael Brown’s shooting. It is, however, likewise true that many defenders of Officer Wilson during those first days reported wildly inaccurate facts, such as falsely claiming that the protesters had killed a police officer.

More to the point, the article misses the role the cops themselves have played in these changing attitudes in America. As I’ve stated above, it’s unquestionable that police need deference from the majority of society to do their job safely and effectively – it is another thing entirely to state that police have all too often lately felt individually entitled to such deference …read more    

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