“YouTube Effect” Has Many Police Officers Doing Work Less Aggressively


Chiefs of some major U.S. police departments say their officers have pulled back and have stopped policing as aggressively as they used to, fearing that they could be the next cop featured on a career-ending viral video. The Washington Post says that was a unifying theory reached Wednesday at a private meeting of more than 100 top law enforcement officers and politicians in Washington, D.C. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton called it the “YouTube effect.” With homicide rates soaring inexplicably this year in dozens of cities, the group convened by Attorney General Loretta Lynch concluded with a news conference promising a robust response to a reversal of falling violent crime rates. Could the root cause of the crime rise in some places be drugs? Guns? Gangs? Perhaps a little of each, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Chiefs and elected leaders from Baltimore, Chicago, New York and St. Louis were blunt about what Wexler called “the notion of a reduction in proactive policing.” “We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don't want to be a news story themselves, they don't want their career ended early, and it's having an impact.” Chiefs and officials spoke broadly of a changed atmosphere in major police departments amid high-profile police shootings and in-custody deaths that led to riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. Chiefs said patrol officers still do their jobs, but fewer take extra steps such as confronting a group loitering on a sidewalk late at night that might glean intelligence or lead to arrests, for fear that any altercations that ensued would be uploaded to the Internet.

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