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UMSL Researchers Seek To Better Understand Police Behavior In The Wake Of Ferguson Unrest

Lt. Col. Ronnie Robinson (left) is with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and Richard Rosenfeld is a professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Former St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson first introduced the idea of the “Ferguson effect” in a 2014 column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, when he wrote that the unrest in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown had left officers afraid to enforce the law. 

“The criminal element is feeling empowered,” he wrote.

National pundits soon picked up on the idea. They claimed that police feeling demoralized had led to a spike in crime.

University of Missouri-St. Louis researchers recently authored a study taking a look at whether attitudes after the unrest in Ferguson were indeed associated with a reduction in arrests for felonies and low-level offenses in the nearby city of St. Louis.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske spoke with one of the researchers, Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, about what they discovered from looking through arrest data from 2011 through 2017. Lt. Col. Ronnie Robinson of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department also joined the program.

Hear the discussion:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.