A rift has widened within the Obama administration over the politically charged question of whether a surge in crime in some cities reflects the reluctance of the police to confront suspicious people because of increased public scrutiny of their behavior, reports the New York Times. “I think there's something to it,” Chuck Rosenberg, acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said yesterday. Rosenberg said he sensed “more trepidation” among the police about confronting people for fear of ending up in a video controversy like the kind that have become common in cities nationwide in the last year. “Rightly or wrongly, you become the next viral video,” he said, adding that “now you can do everything right and still end up on the evening news.”
Rosenberg became the second top federal law enforcement official in two weeks to wade into the debate over the so-called Ferguson effect, named after the Missouri city where the fatal police shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, led to months of protests. FBI director James Comey said last month he was concerned about “a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year.” The White House has distanced itself from that notion, and some officials there and at the Justice Department felt that Comey's remarks undermined their efforts to hold the police more accountable for civil rights abuses, while revealing a division within the administration that threatened to become a political distraction for President Obama on a major criminal-justice issue.