Ferguson Effect: Chicago Cop Gets Savagely Beaten After Hesitating to Use Gun
A Chicago police officer, who knew she needed to shoot a violent assailant high on PCP but didn't because she feared a backlash, is now recovering in a hospital after the savage beating that ensued.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer, a 17-year veteran of the force, knew she should shoot the attacker but hesitated because “she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Johnson’s remarks, which came at an awards ceremony for police and firefighters, underscore a point law enforcement officers and some political leaders have pressed repeatedly as crime has risen in Chicago and other major cities: that police are reluctant to use force or act aggressively because they worry about negative media attention that will follow.
The issue has become known as the Ferguson effect, named after the St. Louis suburb where a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in August 2014. The shooting set off protests and riots that summer and eventually gave way to a fevered national debate over race and policing. Many law enforcement officers have said that the intense focus on policing in the time since has put them on the defensive and hindered their work.
The 43-year-old officer, who is still unidentified, was responding to a car crash Wednesday when a 28-year-old man who was involved in the accident punched her in the face, according to Johnson, who is black.
Johnson said the suspect repeatedly smashed the officer's head against the pavement in an attack that went on for several minutes. Two other officers were injured as they attempted to pull the suspect off the officer. They also wound up in the hospital after being assaulted by the drug-addled perp. The suspect was finally subdued after officers tasered and pepper-sprayed him.
Johnson said he visited the officer in the hospital, where she told him why she did not draw her service weapon during the attack.
“She looked at me and said she thought she was going to die,” he told the audience at the awards ceremony. “And she knew that she should shoot this guy. But she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”
“This officer could [have] lost her life last night,” Johnson continued. “We have to change the narrative of law enforcement across this country.”
The head of Chicago’s police union said the incident showed what goes through an officer's head now in these life-or-death situations. Police “don’t want to become the next YouTube video,” Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the Chicago Tribune.