Letter: Don’t bring the “Ferguson Effect” to our county

The attacks on the integrity of our local police create the atmosphere where we may soon suffer from the “Ferguson Effect.” In August, 2014, a Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer killed a young black man. That city and St. Louis area was then rocked by weeks of riots and mob violence. A grand jury investigation concluded the officer’s action was justified.
But the behavior of police changed. A USA Today article 1/11/2017 noted: “More than three-quarters of U.S. law enforcement officers say they are reluctant to use force when necessary, and nearly as many – 72%- say they or their colleagues are more reluctant to stop and question people who seem suspicious as a result of increased scrutiny of police, according to a new study published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.”
Heather Mac Donald in a 9/28/2016 article in National Review article recapped the “Ferguson Effect in Ferguson.” That city of 21,000 residents saw violent crimes soar from 115 in 2014 to 190 in 2015. Their violent crime rate per 100,00 citizens in 2015 was over double the national average. Robberies were up 60% and aggravated assaults rose 46%.
We are all imperfect beings. Yes, there are a few bad cops – just as we occasionally discover there are pedophile teachers, priests and scoutmasters. But it was not a Tulare County officer that committed the awful murder of George Floyd.
In 2004 and again in 2016, two thirds of Visalia voters endorsed our local police officers when we voted to increase our own sales taxes to support public safety. Our law enforcement personnel have earned our respect and support. Tulare FFA and Ag students recently showed their appreciation by donating 670 gift cards to City and County first responders.
That said, all Black lives really do matter. Mr. Floyd’s death is an indelible stain on the conscience of every American. He becomes another of the 7,400 Black citizens who are homicide victims each year – including the 229 who were killed by police officers in 2018. Police also killed 456 White and 165 Hispanic citizens. (Sources: FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2018, table 1 and “Law Enforcement Today 2/18/19”).
The vast majority of violent deaths were caused by citizens. FBI statistics (table 6) show 89% of Black, and 81% of White victims, were killed by a member of their own race.
The mostly young people participating in Visalia’s protests at least believe we can live in a more just and peaceful world – good for them. But, are they willing to “walk the talk?”
Perhaps the students among local protesters should focus on fixing the racial issues in their own schools as discussed in Visalia Times Delta articles on 6/29/20 and 7/6/20. It was a surprising revelation since VUSD has a diverse population. Over 69% of students are Hispanic, 19% White, 4% Asian and 1.4% Black. Tulare County has similar numbers – 78%%, 15%, 2% and 1%, respectively.
Link to story about the “Ferguson effect in Ferguson” 
Link to story about persons killed by law enforcement officers 

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