Oakland County to Resist "Ferguson effect"

Oakland County Needs to Resist the “Ferguson Effect”
Support Our Law Enforcement Rally to be Held in Southfield May 17

Southfield, MI [Immediate Release]:  Oakland County needs to resist “Ferguson effect”.   The “Ferguson effect” could endanger public safety in Oakland County. “Even low-crime areas like West Bloomfield are not immune”, Township Police Chief Michael Patton said.

The “Ferguson effect” refers to a tendency for law enforcement officers to back off from proactive policing due to criticism after the killing by police in 2015 of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. A wave of protests after the event accused police of racism and improper use of deadly force.

Nearly half of patrol officers surveyed nationally say they have cut back on traffic and pedestrian stops, confirming that a suspected “Ferguson effect” is significantly reducing proactive policing. The poll was designed and conducted recently by Force Science News certified analyst David Blake.

Blake is a retired 16-year police veteran, with a master degree in psychology, who heads an independent law enforcement consulting and training firm. He gathered responses from a cross-section of nearly 500 front-line personnel from departments of all different sizes.

“A police officer’s job has psychological, physical, criminal, civil and administrative facets, as well as concerns for truth, reputation and reliability”, Patton said. 

“Safety is job one, but all these other things matter too”, Patton said. Officers have to consider how their actions will be seen. It places a tremendous burden on police, he said.

There is no question, Patton said, “that officers are afraid of criticism. They need to have the confidence of their public officials and the community at large.”

This underscores the rationale for the Support Our Law Enforcement Rally 14th Congressional District Republicans are holding on the Southfield Civic Center Campus from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. Patton plans to attend the event, which is open to the public at no charge.

Highlights of the national survey on the “Ferguson effect” as reported in the publication Force Science News, show that:

  • While over 97 percent of participants said they believe that proactive policing decreases crime, amid the highly charged atmosphere surrounding American law enforcement of late, 49 percent said they have cut proactive traffic stops by between 5 and 10 per month; and 47 percent said they have reduced proactive pedestrian stops by the same amount, reflecting a significant diminishment in “the things cops do proactively more than anything else”, Blake said.

  • Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they have “slowed down or stopped proactive policing due to media influence”.  The vast majority (94 percent) believe the media are “somewhat or completely biased” toward a negative representation of law enforcement.

  • Thirty-six percent blamed their retreat on “low citizen support”. Some 46 percent reported having a “negative” or “increasingly negative” relationship with their community.

Fortunately that is not the case in West Bloomfield, Patton said, where the community remains “tremendously supportive.  Most communities still have that trust and confidence.”

To be effective a police officer cannot be put in the position of being over-cautious, Patton said.

“It’s hard to be in a situation where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t” Patton said. He said officers need ----and by and large have---clear guidelines on when to use force, when to use deadly force, and how and when to pursue suspects. 

Patton said he issued simple and clear overall directions to his officers when he became West Bloomfield’s Chief in October of 2010: 1) do your job; 2) do it well; 3) follow orders; and 4) always tell the truth.

Police are always going to be questioned about their actions, but if too many burdens are placed on officers it will make the field less attractive. He said the officer’s job is always to be the one who says:  “Halt. Who goes there?” or, “I need you to step out of your car”. The standard is “reasonable suspicion”.

To the suggestion that officers wear body cameras so their actions will be more transparent, Patton said “it is not a panacea”.  He thinks by and large the cameras would work in officers’ favor.

“We would be adopting these cameras to defend ourselves against you and to get more evidence against you” Patton said.

This is a good time to be entering the law enforcement field as officers are increasingly difficult to find. In recent weeks the West Bloomfield Department issued eight job offers, but three of those individuals had already taken other positions.  The public will have to make the field attractive to draw the best people to it, Patton said. 

Carol Foster, Community Events Coordinator for the 14th District Republicans added “We are pleased to have the support of Chief Patton.  This Rally is designed to honor all law enforcement throughout the state.  Our featured speakers for this Rally include Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck (District 7) and Southfield Mayor Kenson J. Siver won’t be topped.  I encourage all those attending to please bring banners, American flags, and other signs expressing support for these brave men and women.”

The 14th District Republican Executive Committee created the Support Our Law Enforcement Rally scheduled to be held at the Southfield Civic Center Campus from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.  This event will be held during National Police Week http://www.policeweek.org/schedule.html  Southfield Civic Center is located at 26000 Evergreen Road (between I-696 and Ten Mile Road).

For more information contact Carol Foster, Community Events Coordinator for the 14th District Republicans, at cafos@sbcglobal.net or call 248-855-0843.

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