Why The Notion Of A 'Ferguson Effect' On Policing Is So Problematic

A HuffPost Live guest unpacks the Ferguson effect and explains why the idea is so troubling.

The so-called "Ferguson Effect," which presupposes that police scrutiny can be linked to an uptick in violent crime, has been disputed time and time again. But if the effect is in fact real, we have a serious problem on our hands, The Atlantic's David Graham told HuffPost Live on Tuesday.

Last Friday, FBI director James Comey suggested that increased scrutiny of police actions following numerous police killings of unarmed citizens may have led to an increase in violent crime as officers become less aggressive in their policing tactics. While Comey acknowledged that he hasn't seen the facts to back up his claim, he reiterated his thoughts on the Ferguson Effect on Monday, citing the Black Lives Matter movement and the videotaping of police actions as part of the equation.

Graham, who recently penned a piece on the issue, argued on HuffPost Live that if there is actually a "chill wind blowing through American law enforcement," as Comey described it, the troubles in American policing are more dire than we've realized. 

"If, in fact, the Ferguson Effect is real, though, that poses a greater problem than we have acknowledged because that suggests that police are incapable of maintaining a level of security we have enjoyed during the crime dip,without aggressive policing that alienates communities of color and potentially abuses civil rights," he told host Alex Miranda.

Comey said that officers have reported they feel "under siege" due to the pervasive conversation about police brutality, which Graham finds interesting for a number of reasons.

"One is the irony of police saying they feel under siege in communities of color, which is very similar to what we are hearing from communities of color about the police," Graham said. "The second is that for years, law-and-order types have justified searches and aggressive policing on the basis that if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. And now we kind of see this line being turned around on the police."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the Ferguson Effect here.

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