Despondent officer narratives and the “post-Ferguson” effect: exploring law enforcement perspectives and strategies in a southern American state

Ross Deuchar, Seth Wyatt Fallik, Vaughn J. Crichlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The fatal shooting of a young, black, and male citizen named Michael Brown by a white male police officer in Ferguson (MO) generated political and media backlash that continues to erode law enforcement legitimacy today. Law enforcement are sensitive to changes in the public discourse on their profession and have responded in kind. A plethora of discussion has focused on the potential existence of a so-called “Ferguson Effect”, whereby de-policing has emerged among officers as a result of concerns about being subjected to negative media scrutiny for racial profiling or excessive use of force, in turn increasing crime rates. Unfortunately, the “Ferguson Effect” is long on anecdotes but short on data. To better understand officers’ attitudes, perspectives and strategies and the way in which the negative press related to the Ferguson incident interacted with these, in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 law enforcement officials were supplemented with participant observations of officer deployments in two southern State counties in the United States. Officer confidence, morale, and policing strategies were queried within the post-Ferguson era. The data suggest that there had been an increased conceptual awareness of procedural justice but also a reduction in officer morale and emphasis on proactive policing strategies, and that Ferguson was often drawn upon as a reference point among officers. The implications for these findings are discussed in terms of future police policies and practices within a procedural justice framework that seeks to reduce crime and increase law enforcement legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages38
JournalPolicing & Society
Early online date29 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2018

Fingerprint

law enforcement
narrative
legitimacy
justice
crime rate
police officer
participant observation
incident
police
confidence
profession
offense
citizen
discourse
interview

Keywords

  • Ferguson effect
  • procedural justice
  • law enforcement legitimacy
  • de-policing

Cite this

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title = "Despondent officer narratives and the “post-Ferguson” effect: exploring law enforcement perspectives and strategies in a southern American state",
abstract = "The fatal shooting of a young, black, and male citizen named Michael Brown by a white male police officer in Ferguson (MO) generated political and media backlash that continues to erode law enforcement legitimacy today. Law enforcement are sensitive to changes in the public discourse on their profession and have responded in kind. A plethora of discussion has focused on the potential existence of a so-called “Ferguson Effect”, whereby de-policing has emerged among officers as a result of concerns about being subjected to negative media scrutiny for racial profiling or excessive use of force, in turn increasing crime rates. Unfortunately, the “Ferguson Effect” is long on anecdotes but short on data. To better understand officers’ attitudes, perspectives and strategies and the way in which the negative press related to the Ferguson incident interacted with these, in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 law enforcement officials were supplemented with participant observations of officer deployments in two southern State counties in the United States. Officer confidence, morale, and policing strategies were queried within the post-Ferguson era. The data suggest that there had been an increased conceptual awareness of procedural justice but also a reduction in officer morale and emphasis on proactive policing strategies, and that Ferguson was often drawn upon as a reference point among officers. The implications for these findings are discussed in terms of future police policies and practices within a procedural justice framework that seeks to reduce crime and increase law enforcement legitimacy.",
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