The Ferguson Effect--are police anxieties to blame?
Simonds, Stephen Edward, Jr.
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The Ferguson Effect is a relatively recent and controversial theory suggesting law enforcement officers across the country have become less proactive in their policing efforts following the August 2014 officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This thesis attempts to settle the Ferguson Effect debate by determining whether open-source data about police productivity can be collected and analyzed either to support or contradict the Ferguson Effect. Publicly available data repositories through the Public Safety Open Data Portal, Public Data Initiative, and related governmental links are utilized for raw dataset acquisition. Three agencies are chosen for data collection and analysis: (1) the Burlington Police Department, Burlington, Vermont, (2) the Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County, Maryland, and (3) the Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In each case study, the data is insufficient to confirm or deny the existence of the Ferguson Effect, although the limited data available does suggest that in these three cities, no noticeable de-policing is detected following the killing of Michael Brown. The conclusion of the study yields several limitations. The most evident deficiency identified in this study involves the transparency initiative and Open Government program, specifically with regard to the Public Data Initiative (PDI) and gathering of police-related data. The PDI needs to establish stricter guidelines and compliance for participating agencies. Additionally, this thesis suggests that less emphasis should be placed on crime correlations and more value placed on de-policing and anxieties being experienced by officers to measure accurately the existence of a Ferguson Effect.
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