Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) thinks the nationwide push for police accountability has made cops go “fetal,” leading to a surge in crime.
“They don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact,” Emanuel told reporters last week at a meeting convened by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Washington, D.C. to address rising homicide rates in some cities.
The mayor defended his comments on Monday. “Officers themselves are telling me about how the news over the last 15 months impacted their instincts: Do they stop or do they keep driving?” he told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“What happened post-Baltimore, what happened post-Ferguson is having an impact,” Emanuel said. “And I still believe recent events over the last year or 18 months have had an impact. And officers will tell you that. And I tried to speak up for the good officers that are doing community policing that make up the men and women of the Chicago Police Department.”
Emanuel is just the latest in a series of public figures to blame the Black Lives Matter movement, directly or indirectly, for a growth in violent crime. Last month, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly blamed it on the climate created by the Ferguson protests against police brutality. “I think you’ll see, you know, the rise in murders in 30 cities, that’s the so-called Ferguson effect where cops are less reluctant to engage in proactive policing.”
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, also in September, claimed that law enforcement is under attack from all sides. “Whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the President, of the Attorney General, is to vilify law enforcement. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all.”
Fox News went so far as to call Black Lives Matter a “hate group.” Even The New York Times asked if the “Ferguson effect” is driving up homicide rates on its front page last month.
But there is little evidence that this is in fact the case. For one thing, it’s questionable whether murder rates are actually surging nationwide, let alone what might be driving that surge, as safety and justice researcher Bruce Frederick wrote in The Marshall Project:
Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced, a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend. Often, such changes fall within the range of normal year-to-year fluctuations. For example, I was able to obtain historical data on year-to-year changes in homicide counts for Chicago, the only top-20 city in the Times analysis that had a statistically significant increase from 2014 to 2015. From 2009 to 2010, homicides increased 5.1 percent. The next year, however, there was a 13.1 percent decrease. The year after that, a 28.5 percent increase, and then decreases of 16.4 and 3.4 percent in 2013 and 2014, before homicides climbed back up 11.3 percent in 2015. Looked at over a longer time period, the numbers do not demonstrate a stable trend.
Before the Ferguson protests even began last year, hundreds of Chicago police officers became a news story themselves ― and not for the kind of one-off, career-ending mistakes Emanuel evoked, but for serial misconduct. A list of 662 officers with more than 10 misconduct complaints against them over a 5-year period was released to the press in July 2014, after a protracted legal battle. The city paid a whopping $54.2 million to settle misconduct cases last year alone, according to The Chicago Reporter.