There is mounting evidence for something that some criminologists have dubbed “The Ferguson Effect”—when police face hostile public scrutiny, in the wake of a highly publicized incident of police misconduct, there is impressive evidence of police retreat, sometimes referred to as “de-policing.” Recent data reviewed by Professors Richard Rosenfeld and Paul Cassell in their important papers document sharp spikes in violent crime in major cities following protests against police violence beginning in May 2020. It is a devilishly difficult business to ascertain the causes of changes in crime rates. Even granting the ineradicable uncertainties, this article argues that there is an impressive case that this crime spike reflects a Ferguson Effect. The incentives confronting police offices suggest the likely mechanism for the decline in law enforcement activity documented by Professor Cassell. Because officers internalize few, if any, of the benefits of effective policing, when they perceive a risk that they will be made to internalize its costs, over-deterrence is the likely outcome. There are, moreover, important policy implications of this conclusion. Policing reforms must be alert to the risk that they will over-deter officers, and thereby spur increases in violent crime, which will impose disproportionate costs on disadvantaged communities and people of color.
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Research Article| December 01 2020
The Law and Economics of De-policing
Federal Sentencing Reporter (2020) 33 (1-2): 128–141.
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Lawrence Rosenthal; The Law and Economics of De-policing. Federal Sentencing Reporter 1 December 2020; 33 (1-2): 128–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fsr.2020.33.1-2.128
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