The True Ferguson Effect

After four years, Jason Stockley,  a former St. Louis police officer has finally been arrested and charged with the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black father of an infant and unborn child, who was unarmed and pleading for his life.

The "Ferguson Effect" is a term coined by Sam Dotson, the chief of the St. Louis Police Department referring to a link between protests of the use of excessive force by police, especially those in Ferguson, Missouri, and increases in crime rates in a number of major U.S. cities. However, the true Ferguson Effect is that police are finally beginning to be held accountable for their wrong actions; at least when video evidence exist. 

Prior to the Ferguson Protest, it was rare for police officers to be charged with a crime or even held accountable for abuse or wrongful death. As long as the magic catchphrase was used, "I feared for my life", police officers were consistently given a pass no matter how ridiculous their story was. 

Seemingly, no amount of witness testimony is enough to bring charges against police officers or convict, even when those witnesses are extremely credible. A video must exist of the exact moment of the incident for prosecutors to even consider charges. Ferguson was a game changer and increased the attention and scrutiny of police shootings. More people became aware of their right to record police actions in public, especially questionable actions. Police shootings of unarmed black men started gaining increasing press coverage. People who were skeptical that police brutality was a real finally started to realize there was a problem.

Ferguson and other protest are not responsible for increased crime. It's easy to blame the victim or those least able to respond. The decline of the middle class and increasing poverty is responsible for increased criminal activity. Unemployment and other social welfare benefits have been reduced or cut. Yesterday, a St. Louis shoplifter was shot for stealing steaks and toilet paper. I suspect a declining economy is one reason why heroin addiction is rising, especially among white people. Naturally, as drug use increases, so does crime. Addicts need to find some way to finance their drug habit. 

If it had not been for the Ferguson Protesters, it's doubtful that the recent arrest of police officers across the country including St. Louis would have taken place. Instead of vilifying the "Ferguson Effect", we should celebrate it.