Sat, 31 October 2015
FBI Chief Gets the “Ferguson Effect” All Wrong
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“In Comey’s mind, there is no such thing as mass incarceration.”
FBI Director James Comey put his boss in an uncomfortable position this week, blaming the movement against police brutality in Black America for increases in crime in some cities. Comey was talking about the so-called “Ferguson Effect,” the theory that intensified scrutiny of police since the rebellions in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore has caused cops to be less aggressive in carrying out their duties, allowing crime to flourish. The FBI chief painted a picture of a digitalFort Apache, the Bronx, with cops cowering in their squad cars “surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high,” waiting to capture them on video. Comey said the cops feel like they’re “under siege,” and are reluctant to get out of their cars.
Actually, I think that’s a very pretty picture, and I wish it were the case everywhere in Black America. In the next scene of that movie, the occupation-army-in-blue would turn around and drive back to the suburbs where they live, never to return – and Black folks would take up the task of providing security for their own communities. Now, that would be real “community policing.”
Director Comey also put himself, at least rhetorically, on the wrong side of the White House when he questioned the very existence of “mass incarceration” in the United States. The U.S. prison population has grown eight-fold since 1970 but, as Comey points out, each of these prisoners has been locked up one at a time. Therefore, in Comey’s mind, there is no such thing as mass incarceration.
“Obama has brought not a single federal prosecution against killer cops.”
All this is quite embarrassing to the Obama administration, whose job is to convince Black people that a kinder, gentler police force is on the way and mass Black incarceration is nearing an end, and that all this can happen without fundamentally changing power relationships in America. It’s a scam, of course. The administration’s version of community policing would actually increase police penetration of the Black community, in the guise of community relations, multiplying the points of contact between police and the people. Pro-active policing merges with predictive policing, which is racial profiling on steroids. Obama is only seeking to put a smiling face on an even more intrusive, higher tech Mass Black Incarceration State.
The cops shouldn’t be so nervous. Obama has brought not a single federal prosecution against killer cops. Police impunity is not threatened in any way by his so-called reforms – most of which have been recommended by the cops, themselves. Obama and his political twin, Hillary Clinton, want to strengthen the grip of police power, by putting Black people back to sleep.
The only group that can be counted on not to cooperate is the Black street. Those young Black folks that FBI Director Comey talked about are armed with their phone cameras – and that’s not the only tool that Black hands can hold, a lesson learned with the first modern Black urban rebellion in Harlem, in 1935, and re-learned over the past year in Ferguson and Baltimore.
The next chapter of Black history will be written in the streets. The effects will be bigger than Ferguson.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.