Police chiefs across the country believe their officers are not policing as aggressively as they have been in the past because they fear they could be the next officer to appear on a viral video and lose their job in the process.
The high ranking officers came to this conclusion on Wednesday, during a meeting of some of the top police officers and politicians in the country.
The soaring homicide rates across the country prompted the meeting, which was convened by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The meeting concluded with a news conference that promised a strong response to tackle the high homicide rates.
Although the participants were told the meeting was closed to the media, the mayor of D.C. listed it as a public event, and a Washington Post reporter was able to observe three hours of the meeting.
Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum, tried to bring Lynch up to speed when she arrived at the meeting.
“Perhaps the most difficult to calibrate, but the most significant,” he said, “is this notion of a reduction in proactive policing,” Wexler said.
Some police chiefs and elected officials were more direct about the problem. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, told Lynch that “We have allowed our police department to get fetal, and it is having a direct consequence. They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”
Currently, there is no evidence that supports the claim that police officers are less aggressive when doing their job, and none of the officers and politicians at the meeting presented any examples of lackluster policing that contributed to any violent crime.
The people at the meeting spoke broadly about the changed atmosphere in their departments after the high-profile shootings that involved police officers over the past year.
Some of the chiefs in attendance said while patrolmen still do their jobs and police their beats, they are less likely to confront groups loitering on the sidewalks late at night because they fear any altercation between them will be recorded and uploaded to the internet.
William Bratton, the New York City Police Commissioner, called it the “YouTube effect” that has plagued officers after the unarmed civilian deaths at the hands of police officers doing their jobs in Ferguson, Missouri and New York last year.