Philly Officers Confirm “Ferguson Effect,” Commissioner Ramsey Skeptical


When an unruly Philadelphia bus rider told a police officershe wasn’t “leaving this f—ing bus,” the cop recalled that he said, “I don’t want to use physical force,” and “As soon as I said those words, 45 percent of the passengers had their cameras on me.” He didn’t remove the passenger, which the Philadelphia Daily News suggests was an example of the Ferguson Effect, the idea that police officers are becoming less proactive because they’re weary from constant criticism and worried about ending up in a 30-second video clip that makes the wrong kind of headlines. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is skeptical, saying, “I think it’s logical to think some officers might be a little reluctant to get engaged as a result of what’s been going on, but I’ve not seen it here. “Nobody wants to be the subject of a viral video. But if you’re doing your job the right way, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Officers speaking anonymously say they know their colleagues are taking a step back: doing what they need to do to get through an eight-hour tour, but nothing more. “Cops will always respond to 911 calls. It won’t affect service,” said one veteran investigator, “[but] it will stop people from getting out of the car and telling the dealers to get off the corner.” A suipervisor said some the department’s hardest-working and most aggressively proactive officers have a different perspective now. “They’re afraid of getting caught on the last three minutes of a cellphone video, or putting themselves in a situation where the outcome could get violent and they get grilled for it,” he said. “Nobody wants to lose their pension for an arrest.”

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