Law Enforcement Technology

NOV 2016

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8 LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY NOVEMBER 2016 Tom Wetzel Lt. Tom Wetzel is a suburban police lieutenant in Greater Cleveland and an adjunct professor on community policing at Lakeland Community College. OPINION REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM W W W.CLEVEL AND.COM I f you haven't heard of the term "Ferguson Effect," you may start hearing more of it. And when you do, it should chill you. What that basically means is that officers will answer their calls and take their reports but will be less likely to try and ferret out bad guys to the degree they had before. FBI Director James Comey suggested that a spike in violent crime might be linked to police reluctance to be caught on video that goes viral. Although touched on by some frank enough to address this possibility, others have argued that there is no evidence of such an effect despite crime spikes in major metropolitan areas. That opinion may begin to change, though, in light of a recent national survey of police officers conducted by David Blake, who heads an inde- pendent law-enforcement consulting and training firm. In his survey, a significant percentage of the 500 front-line police personnel from around the country surveyed using online Survey Monkey acknowledged that they have reduced their pro- active efforts. Many also perceived an increase in criminal activity. Even though the query involved a small sam- pling of cops and certainly requires further analy- sis and peer review, this exploratory effort may give us a glimpse into how officers are feeling. It is important because this preliminary research allows us to view this concern through the eyes of the officers, and what they may be seeing should concern us. This should not only trouble the upper ech- elons of police leadership but also our entire citi- zenry, because we need our officers to "shake the bushes" and search out trouble. If they don't, we will quickly find out how corrosive and far-reach- ing that criminal element is capable of being. There is a scene in the 1986 cop movie "Running Scared" where an officer compares police officers to garbage men. Even though they must continually pick up trash every week, imag- ine what would happen if they just stopped pick- ing up all the garbage. Our country's police officers are exceptional. They value the rule of law and are accountable to those they serve. Each and every day, they take Could the 'Ferguson Effect' impact policing in Ohio (and elsewhere)? What is the Ferguson Effect? The term, which is derisive in nature, developed in par t from the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—along with other controversial police actions since then—where of ficers' actions have come under intense scrutiny and aggressive criticism. What it has caused is a deep concern that of ficers would stop being proactive and instead become only reactive during a tour of duty.

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