DEA Boss Joins FBI In Declaring 'Ferguson Effect' To Be A Real Thing; Offers Up 'Stuff I Heard' As Evidence

from the Exhibit-A:-Hearsay,-Conjecture,-Guys-At-The-Coffee-Shop dept

Late last month, FBI head James Comey contributed to the “Ferguson Effect” mythmaking, blaming unexplained spikes in violent crime on… citizens filming police officers. His argument? Officers fear for their power and no longer feel like exiting their vehicles to do their job.

A rebuttal from Comey’s former boss, Eric Holder, arrived shortly thereafter.

“I don’t agree with the comments that he’s made about, or the connection he’s drawn, between the so-called ‘Ferguson effect’ and this rise in crime,” Holder said, adding that Comey seemed to be relying on anecdotes rather than data.

“You can’t base policy on anecdotal evidence,” Holder said. “It’s hard for us to understand why crime dropped to historic lows over the last 40 years. I think it’s probably equally difficult — or even more difficult — to explain why crime has gone up in some places, violent crime has gone up in some places, over the past 12 months. But I don’t think it’s connected to the so-called Ferguson effect.”

But anecdotal evidence works best when actual evidence is lacking. The same can be said for the “War on Cops,” which has been cobbled together using a regression to the mean following a historic low (2014) and a random smattering of social media posts about “putting wings on pigs,” etc.

James Comey remains resolute that this “effect” is leading to spikes in crime (themselves possibly a regression to the mean after years of historic lows). Now he has another federal ally in the “War on Logic.”

Chuck Rosenberg, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said Wednesday that he agrees with FBI Director James Comey that police officers are reluctant to aggressively enforce laws in the post-Ferguson era of capturing police activity on smartphones and YouTube.

“I think there’s something to it,” Rosenberg said during a press briefing on drug statistics at DEA headquarters in Arlington. “I think he’s spot on. I’ve heard the same thing.”

Rosenberg doesn’t offer any evidence to back up his belief. Neither does Washington Post writer Todd C. Frankel, who inexplicably follows Rosenberg’s baseless assertion with one of his own.

The comments offer more support for the theory that, faced with increased scrutiny, the nation’s police officers are pulling back.

No, they don’t. Evidence that isn’t strictly anecdotal or suffering from correlation/causation issues would “offer more support” for the “Ferguson Effect” theory. Another law enforcement official saying he’s heard some stuff does not offer any additional support for this law enforcement theory.

In fact, Rosenberg spends more time hedging his assertion than defending it.

Rosenberg allowed that while he’s “not entirely sure what’s going on” with the sporadic increases in crime seen in some places, he believes “we should talk about it.”

If Rosenberg and Comey want to “talk about it,” they have to stop excluding the general public from the discussion. They need to stop publicly pushing narratives backed by nothing more than the vague unhappiness of law enforcement agencies that are no longer viewed as faultless pillars of their respective communities.

And as long as these two are “talking” about it, they might want to check in with the rest of the government. The recently-departed DOJ head said the “Ferguson Effect” is bogus. So did the White House.

“Mr. Rosenberg is the second administration official to make that kind of claim without any evidence,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

“The fact is, the evidence does not support the claim that somehow our law enforcement officers all across the country are shirking their duties and failing to fulfill their responsibility to serve and protect the communities to which they are assigned.”

What should be an insult to cops everywhere is instead being used by law enforcement agencies as a FUD delivery vehicle. The nation is already suffering from a rift between its citizens and its law enforcers. Comey and Rosenberg are making the situation worse by driving a wedge between their agencies and the White House. The instinctual move to blame any increase on crime on a loss of faith in law enforcement feeds into the Us vs. Them mindset that created the problem in the first place.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “DEA Boss Joins FBI In Declaring 'Ferguson Effect' To Be A Real Thing; Offers Up 'Stuff I Heard' As Evidence”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

Wrong line of work

If someone recording your public actions is enough for you to refuse to do your job, a job as a public servant that involves interacting with members of the public is probably not the best choice.

Any cop so terrified of a camera that it leaves them quivering with fear in their car should probably quit, and look for a job where they aren’t interacting with members of the public so often. Maybe a nice, safe job as a cattle rancher perhaps?

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Cowards

Marked insightful.

The common thread to both “cops are scared of cameras” and “cops shoot unarmed people” is that too many cops are cowards.

You’d think with all that training, equipment, weapons, and authority they wouldn’t have much to fear (being a commerical fisherman is more dangerous than being a cop).

Maybe all that gear & authority attracts insecure coward types.

Anyway, the solution is to fire the cops who can’t take the pressure, and get new ones who can.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Cowards

The common thread to both “cops are scared of cameras” and “cops shoot unarmed people” is that too many cops are cowards.

That’s a common trait among bullies.

You’d think with all that training, equipment, weapons, and authority they wouldn’t have much to fear (being a commerical fisherman is more dangerous than being a cop).

Even being a convenience store clerk is more dangerous than being a cop. Yet, they aren’t portrayed as “heroes” for risking their lives to keep us supplied with late night items. Funny, that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Rise in violent crime is easily explained

Prescriptions for Opioid based pain relief are the cause. Once it became harder to get your fix legally, people are forced to find other ways of dealing with their addiction. Nearly the same thing involving ADD meds and Meth but with different addiction methods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Rise in violent crime is easily explained

Overall yes, but Baltimore is going to record its 300th murder of the year sometime next week and may finish the year by setting a new record high. That’s in addition to all the other shootings, stabbings, beatings, etc., with non-fatal outcomes. St. Louis is another location with serious localized violent crime issues. So while the national trend is encouraging, the regression in some areas is alarming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rise in violent crime is easily explained

That’s exactly right. Police complain that witnesses won’t come forward, but everyone knows that if they have an encounter with police — OF ANY KIND — there is a substantial probability that they will be harassed, arrested, beaten, tasered, pepper-sprayed, or killed. And that probability goes up markedly if they’re not white.

That’s part of the reason why the clearance rate on murders in Baltimore in 2015 is 31.5%. The community has (quite sensibly) learned not to trust police implicitly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Rise in violent crime is easily explained

…the clearance rate on murders in Baltimore in 2015 is 31.5%…

That’s part of my problem with modern policing. The definition of ‘clearance’ is the case is resolved and (in most cases) the suspect(s) is(are) known.

BUT: citation, arrest, and/or prosecution is NOT required for the police to declare a case cleared.

So when a police department claims a (hypothetical) 50% clearance rate that only means they know who committed the infractions; they have not necessarily cited or arrested the suspects.

If Baltimore really has a 31% clearance rate the police agencies there have some operational problems. If they had claimed a 31% arrest rate that I could believe.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Rise in violent crime is easily explained

AC is right – violent crime has been steadily dropping (see

But as a proportion of the (dropping) violence, you’re right – more are more is drug related.

Nothing new about that – in the US nearly half of all prisoners are incarcerated on drug charges.

Yet nobody seems to learn. The Feds just keep moving from one drug panic to the next – each time creating a new crop of black market violence and non-violent prisoners. This week it’s Oxycontin – next week, something else.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rise in violent crime is easily explained

Even with more public defenders, most of them would still end up in prison.

Because most did violate the law, even tho they didn’t hurt anyone (willing seller, willing buyer, consenting adults).

And even those who did hurt someone, did so because we’ve created a black market. Black market traders can’t use the legal system to resolve their disputes – so they use violence.

If coffee were illegal, I’d be buying it on the black market.

But it’s not, so I can buy it safely – cheap and high quality, at the supermarket.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Rise in violent crime is easily explained

You’ve all made the case for ending the War on Drugs and treating addiction as a health issue. It’d actually be much cheaper to put addicts into rehab and reintegrate them into society than lock them up, etc.

In Portugal, this has been proven to work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Rise in violent crime is easily explained

I can’t believe that the police did not actually find any drugs but the perp agreed to a plea bargain anyway just to get out of jail because they could not afford the bail. Note, I have read that in some cases people spend months incarcerated awaiting trial, mostly because they can not afford bail.

Personanongrata says:

FBI DEA DHS Group Think So Defective it is Pratically Insane

FBI and DEA should consolidate their headquarters with that of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) located at DHS’s boondoggle of a renovation project St. Elizabeths Hospital, a former mental institution.

It is at St. Elizabeths where Comey and Rosenberg along with DHS Secretary Johnson can best apply their delusional group think vacuum chamber analysis in regard to the so-called “Ferguson Effect” in the proper setting a refurbished insane asylum.

Tax-payer funded straight-jackets for one and all!

Please read:

The Case for Abolishing the DHS

By Charles Kenny July 15, 2013

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was a panicked reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks. It owes its continued existence to a vastly exaggerated assessment of the threat of terrorism. The department is also responsible for some of the least cost-effective spending in the U.S. government. It’s time to admit that creating it was a mistake.

Anonymous Coward says:

[quote]think it’s probably equally difficult — or even more difficult — to explain why crime has gone up in some places, violent crime has gone up in some places, over the past 12 months. [/quote]

It’s actually quite easy. There a 12,000+ local police departments in the US. Statistically, there will be some that go up and some that go down regardless of overall (aggregate)trends.

This is not a noise or entropy free system. There is a relatively large variability.

Anonymous Coward says:

The other side with all of this is that this situation is really the fault of police departments and unions. If the public believes that officers were held accountable for their misdeeds and could be trusted, this would completely disappear. I think that people understand that there will be occassional issues but they need to be dealt with in a fair and just manner.

However, they nearly 100% protect their own and never admit wrongdoing. This breeds contempt in the public and mistrust. It doesn’t take much either. One bad interaction (either directly with or indirectly through friend/family or observation) will destroy trust. Once gone, it doesn’t come back without Herculean efforts.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm just going to leave this here

Troopers Continue to Search for Former Bethel Police Officer Wanted on Attempted Sexual Assault Charges

Border Patrol Agent Charged with Capital Murder

Former Texas deputy gets 13 years for child porn

Fired Unified police officer charged with sexually abusing teen girl

Veteran Richmond police officer arrested for child sex crimes

Update: UND police officer charged with 10 counts of possessing child porn

Overlooking police misconduct doesn’t start with Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, life-long Wash. cop is now a murder suspect

Former Garland County Police Deputy Arrested

Florida deputy showed up staggeringly drunk to get an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Former GBI agent arrested on multiple child molestation charges

h/t to Shaun King

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm just going to leave this here

I’m not sure entirely what point you’re trying to make here.

Are you saying that people shouldn’t be upset because some police have been punished? This would be offering the same kind of anecdotal evidence that the article rails against. “See? Cops get punished too. Everything is fine.”

Are you offering this as evidence that police do bad things and should be punished, as these people have?

The problem with leaving things here is that it’s not clear what you’re saying by leaving them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm just going to leave this here

Each one of these may be explained away as an anecdote or an aberration. However, taken as a whole — and noting that these are just some of the stories from just this week — there is very clear pattern of systemic police crime, violence, and abuse. I could spend the rest of the day filling up this space with reports from just 2015 — like the Chicago PD “black site” where they disappeared people.

The problem may be in part that police officers are shirking their duties because they don’t like being held accountable for them by the public that they purportedly serve. But it should be dawning on everyone that another large part of the problem is that an alarming number of police are criminals and are using their positions of power in society to victimize others, often brutally.

As of today, 1,030 people have been killed by US police in 2015. I invite you to note how many officers have been prosecuted and how many of those have been convicted. After doing so, re-read the article we’re commenting on and consider what the real Ferguson effect is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I invite you to re-read my comment and consider that I was simply trying to understand what you were trying to say with just a list of links.

Maybe, in the future, include from the beginning something like what you just wrote so that people know where you’re coming from, what your point is. Without that kind of contextual information, your list could be interpreted to just about any viewpoint. I tried to demonstrate that in my comment, though perhaps not well enough.

Zero says:

Re: Almost sounds...

Perhaps, but we’ll see how well that works for them when everything comes to a screeching halt. History has demonstrated what happens in those situations where a populace is pushed too far. Sadly,the peaceful approach appears to be quickly diminishing the more the “us vs them” narrative is pushed by these types.

BTW, isn’t this DEA chief already under scrutiny for his comments on marijuana in addition to the horrible-shit job he’s done running his dept? How is his opinion even valid?

Anonymous Coward says:

Why isn't this bigger?

This is not “us vs. them” (aka law enforcement vs the public) I get from this statement. It is more “You can take it from us or you can take it from them. Your choice citizens” with the public caught in the middle.
Almost nobody calls them out on this in the great mediums. This is not a political issue where the media so famously take obvious stands, but a threat against society nomatter the side you identify with.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Silk purse? Sow's ear. No, more like sow

“The comments offer more support for the theory that, faced with increased scrutiny, the nation’s police officers are pulling back.”

There’s a difference between theory and conjecture. This doesn’t even come close to qualifying as a theory.

…Come to think of it, this doesn’t qualify as conjecture, either. This isn’t guessing, it’s blame-shifting. Never mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Only a matter of time before people start getting sent to re education camps for the violent thoughts they harbor towards those running things.

I truly believe this will eventually happen. You are free to disagree but think about how we have people being arrested for thought crimes. A governing body that likes to pretend their citizens have no rights. A police force that is treated for the most part that the laws do not apply to them and anyone that does not respect them deserves to be beaten, murdered or brutalized until they show the respect the police feel they deserve.

This is a police state tyranny America. Either continue along this path that so many dictatorships have charted through history or prepare for when people start fighting back.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Only a matter of time before people start getting sent to re education camps for the violent thoughts they harbor towards those running things.

What you are referring to has already begun.

It will eventually be called the War on Radicalization, but it is indeed a war against dissent.

One of the primary purposes of war is to re-educate the next generation in the beliefs “the state” need them to hold true, while eliminating the youth who no longer believe the lies, through mutual extermination in a politically designed conflict with another nation who’s owners need to do the same with their dissenting youth.

It is called “culling the herd”.

As soon as you see your first hollywood movie about how children are being radicalized through their connections on the internet, by evil, silver tongued, non-Christian fanatical, religious terrorists, you will know the newest “war-on” is in full swing.

Thereafter, it will become a serious crime to say, write, or post online, anything un-nice about billionaires, millionaires, lawyers, politicians, police, military brass, and/or the CEOs of industry.

Shortly after that, the Internet will become Channel Zero, Zero, One, point #, and you’ll need an electronic identity card to browse through the unlimited walled gardens of deceptive advertisements, false promises and online shopping catalogues.

Of course, if you’re really rich, you can get a $50,000.00 annual VIP Citizen ID Card that is guaranteed anonymous, which lets you access the hidden Ownership Society Internet (OSI), where you can; among other things, purchase quality drugs of all sorts, direct from the factory/farm, and participate in inter-active child porn, and snuff films to your heart’s content.

The future looks bright for those at the top of the food chain, in the United States of Hollywood.

Maximum Overtroll says:


I found some interesting anecdotes at my high school reunion. The people who went on about how they wanted to be police to protect people eneded up with military careers. The people who wanted to be police because they were interested in law and criminal justice ended up as lawyers. The people who actually became police however, were the bullies.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...