The Ferguson Effect: The Future of Law Enforcement and Crime Rates in America?


By:  Sara Brochstein

As tensions increase throughout the United States, the debate over the “Ferguson effect” theory remains highly visible in the foreground.  The theory suggests that increased attention and scrutiny of the police in light of the highly publicized episodes of police brutality has resulted in officers acting less proactive.  This behavior reportedly stems from a fear of making a controversial stop or, even worse, a mistake given the widespread use of cellphone videos and media coverage.  According to proponents of the Ferguson effect, the “hesitation” by police has emboldened criminals and led to an increase in crime.

Regardless of whether the theory has merit, the behavioral tendencies espoused by the Ferguson effect theory certainly raise an interesting question.  Even if it cannot be proven that the current climate is affecting police officers and their ability to perform their job duties effectively, what is the ultimate impact on retention rates and recruiting efforts within police departments?  While a national decrease in recruitment could be traced to multiple factors, it seems only logical that the problem will be further compounded by recent police shootings and the growing concern for safety.  In such an unstable time, it remains to be seen what impact these current events and issues will have on national law enforcement and the rippling effect on the overall crime rate, which could have serious implications for everyone.