The ‘Ferguson Effect’ and Minimizing Demands for Police Reform
Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford casts doubt on claims that media scrutiny is deterring police officers from doing their job
KIM BROWN: Thanks for tuning into the Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.
Last week in Chicago a police officer was severely beaten by a man police say was violent and under the influence of drugs. The officer later told her supervisors that the reason she did not use lethal force on the man was because she was afraid of the scrutiny that shooting an unarmed person would bring to her family and to the police department. Was this is a situation that warranted lethal force? And why should police fear scrutiny if in fact their actions are justified?
Well joining us today from Plainfield, New Jersey is Glen Ford. Glen is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report and the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of US Media Coverage in the Grenada Invasion. Glen thanks for joining us.
GLEN FORD: Thank you.
BROWN: Glen your thoughts about this officer’s reluctance and her reasoning for not wanting to use lethal force when she was allegedly being beaten so badly by a supposed suspect that she had to be later hospitalized. I’m not known police to worry about what the public thought about their actions while in the line of duty.
FORD: Yea this is the second hand story from the police superintendent saying what he says the 43-year-old female police officer was saying. I think it’s quite patently ridiculous to believe that anyone would rather die than face some kind of embarrassment. Embarrassment to their family or to their employer. That sounds insane. But if in this new era of scrutiny of police officers, if they have to think two or three or five times before they shoot in some future police departments, Chicago Police Department is certainly not like that yet. But if that would come about and if somehow a couple of officers got killed, that has to be balanced against the hundreds of unarmed civilians that the police kill every year.
We have to come and recognize the basic truth that police lives are not more valuable than civilian lives. They don’t count as more. But really all this talk about what cops’ fear and Ferguson effects and all of that, that’s designed to change the subject from the actual demands that were made by the protestors in Chicago. The protestors whose effectiveness led to this new black superintendent getting his job and to these new rules on police use of force and what the black youth 100 project and their allies are demanding is a defunding of the police department and community control of the police. The police department uses up about half of the Chicago city budget. But instead of defunding the police, what Chicago is proposing is adding a thousand new cops to the force, no matter how much that costs. It should be pointed out that Chicago already has one of the country’s highest ratios in the number of cops to civilians.
Another city that has an even higher ratio of cops to civilians is Baltimore and they are having a big spike in homicides despite the fact that they have so many more cops per capita than most cities. So this correlation between the number of cops and its effect on crime, certainly is not clear. But one thing is clear in the minds of the black community or at least in the minds of the protestors. That is that folks don’t want more contact, more unwanted contact with the police. More unwanted contact with the police leads to more mass black incarceration. If anybody believes that there are cops out there who would rather die than be accountable to a news media or rather die than see their faces on YouTube, then I guess those kinds of cops would actually have to go extinct if they were going to be actually accountable to the public, the communities that they patrol in. Maybe that will be a good thing too.
BROWN: Well Glen, on Friday Chicago Police Department, they released a draft proposal to amend its use of force policy. So this is an attempt to curb controversies around police conduct. So for example, this is what they’re proposing. So right now, Chicago police could shoot a fleeing suspect who had committed or had attempted to commit a felony using force. So the change to this would be that the police can only fire upon a fleeing suspect if they pose a “immediate threat”. Another proposed change is now police can only use their Taser on someone 3 times before trying something else.
These are all proposals that are not yet concreted but this is what’s being proposed. Your thoughts about this Glen.
FORD: Well that’s one of the reasons these proposals being out there on the table to be imposed on a very reluctant resistant police force, that’s why we’re hearing this story coming from the hospital room. These new rules would elevate the sanctity of life over the necessity for people to comply with officers. They have called for officers to deescalate confrontations rather than go straight for the gun. The cops are bragging about these proposals. That is the ones who made them, saying that they afford more protections than the Supreme Court does.
You need to take that with a grain of salt. In practice, the US judicial system does not provide us any protections against us being shot by police. We can see that. The proof is in the pudding. Police are very very very seldom prosecuted for shooting civilians and prosecutors tell us because the law does not allow for prosecutions most of the time. So the Chicago Police now having a law that is more lenient or has more protections for civilians than the Supreme Court affords is not really much protection at all.
BROWN: Indeed. We have been joined this afternoon with Glen Ford. He is the executive editor and also cofounder of the Black Agenda Report. Glen we appreciate your time today. Thank you.
FORD: Thank you.
BROWN: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.
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