A former police chief and the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) testified to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about the so-called “Ferguson effect,” which alleges that police are afraid to do their jobs because of possible scorn. He rejected it, saying that there is no evidence that such a thing is occurring, or that police are increasingly targeted for retribution.
In a hearing titled “The War on Police,” Ronald Davis told the subcommittee, which is chaired by Senator Ted Cruz, also said that any suggestion of the “Ferguson effect” is insulting to police officers because it suggests that they can’t handle backlash:
I think we need to be very cautious … that in having this discussion, we’re not suggesting that the brave men and women who serve in law enforcement — and this is based on my 30 years — are somehow scared, which is the word I’ve heard people say, reluctant, or even suggested they’re cowards and will not do their job because they’re afraid of public scrutiny.
Public scrutiny is not a negative. It’s the foundation of policing in a democratic society.
And it’s what’s needed in the wake of a rash of police brutality cases. Republicans have blamed Obama for a perceived uptick in police killings, with Ted Cruz slamming the whole administration for being hostile to police officers. Unfortunately (for him), he didn’t provide any evidence to back that up, which is typical of GOP attacks against Obama. What is true is that police killings are down, and 2015 has been one of the safest years for police in a long time.
Those who testified in support of the “Ferguson effect” weren’t law enforcement officers, Justice officials or experts in criminal justice, crime, or anything like that. They were all conservative commentators and members of right-wing think tanks, likely selected to further Cruz’s agenda, rather than provide anything meaningful to a Congressional subcommittee.
For the other side, a police chief from DeKalb County, Georgia, said that he had yet to feel the “Ferguson effect” or anything that indicates there’s a war on police. Also, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) took issue with the title of the hearing, saying that the words “war on police” were provocative and disingenuous.
Indeed, these are two things of which Ted Cruz is a master. He is impervious to facts, like much of the GOP, so he doesn’t want to hear them. Otherwise, he’d have held this hearing honestly, or not at all. “War on Police” gives away his agenda, and serves as proof that he can’t conduct this hearing with the impartiality Congressional hearings need.