Political scientist Ernest Evans had been tracking the "Ferguson Effect" long before anyone heard of Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson simply raised awareness - and raised the stakes in the process.
The "effect" is as old as the media's embrace of the civil rights movement, and its patterns are very nearly universal. A white police officer, whether justifiably or not, is accused of using excess force against an African American. If the "victim" is young and unarmed - and if the cop is insufficiently punished - all the better for those who profit from disorder, the media most notably.
Although the media attention may seem to benefit the affected community, its long-term effect is lethal, literally. Out of self-preservation, cops of all color shy from confrontation, especially in black neighborhoods. Speaking to the Ferguson effect, one Kansas City police officer told me, "We're not half the cops we used to be or could be."
Sensing an opportunity, the criminally minded exploit the vacuum to expand their operations or settle scores. This is not mere hypothesis. It is a reality borne out by the numbers. On Aug. 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson. The fact that the shooting was justified did nothing to chill the media or calm the community. As to the police, the thought that they could be prosecuted for making the right choice in doing their duty made them even more apprehensive.
In 2013 and in the first seven months of 2014, adjacent Saint Louis had been averaging 10 homicides a month. In the five months after the shooting, the city averaged 18 homicides a month. The pattern continued into 2015, with St. Louis averaging more than 15 homicides a month for the year. By contrast, violent crime across the nation increased less than 2 percent during the same period.
The effect seems to have bled across the state. In Kansas City, after the Brown shooting the homicide rate jumped from an unusually low five a month to an unusually high 10 a month. The surge continued into 2015 with the city averaging nine homicides a month.
On April 19, 2015, in Baltimore, the chronically criminal Freddie Gray died in police custody. As with Ferguson, the media inflamed the situation without knowing or even caring about the facts on the ground. The results have been predictable. Since May 1, 2015, the city has suffered twice as many homicides per month as it did in the period prior to Gray's death. "This surge was massively, massively composed of black victims," says Evans. In 2015, 320 of the 344 murdered in Baltimore were black men, women and children, a 60 percent increase in black victims over the year 2014.
For a variety of reasons, civil authorities and the media are not eager to share their crime statistics. Evans often has to turn bloodhound to sniff them out. The numbers he has dug up in Chicago seem to affirm his grim thesis. In late November, prosecutors released an inflammatory video of a white Chicago police officer shooting and killing a knife-wielding 17-year-old named Laquan McDonald.
The media responded with its typical mania. The community rose up as prompted. And as always, the criminals seized the day. Twice as many Chicagoans were shot in January 2016 as in January 2015, and the number of murders surged 50 percent.
Evans likes to quote socialist author Upton Sinclair on the subject of human intransigence. Said Sinclair more than a century ago, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Apparently, not much has change since.
The leaders of the vestigial civil rights movement, certain elected officials and many in the media have a vested interest in depicting cops as racist and/or reactionary even in cases like Ferguson where the police shooting was justified or in Baltimore where three of the six "killer" cops were black. More than just their salary, their self-love hinges on their enlightened concern for the black underclass.
The last thing these people want to hear is that their myopic attachment to a largely bogus narrative is killing the very people they claim to protect.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessary represent those of Headlines and Global News.
An independent writer and producer, Jack Cashill has written 11 books since 2000, nine of which have been featured on C-SPAN's "Book TV." He has also produced a score of documentaries for regional PBS and national cable channels. Jack has written for Fortune, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard. He has a Ph.D. from Purdue University in American studies.