Crime and Justice

Where did Ferguson come from?

As the events in Ferguson, MO, unfold, I have been watching for some time. Every couple of days in the Criminal Justice class I’m taking, we have talked about it, and yesterday we had a lengthy discussion as the rioting was still spinning out of control. I see it continues today, with the total at something like 27 businesses burned. I’m not yet ready to write on it in depth, but I have seen several resources either directly or indirectly related that I’d like to link together in this post for thoughtful readers who can make their own conclusions.

Indirectly, this essay by Jerry Pournelle is very close to what’s going on in Ferguson. There is more, much more, at the link and I highly recommend looking at it all. The crab-bucket theory applies, and in the class discussion I brought it up and was surprised to find that the majority of my classmates and my professor didn’t know it.

More than forty years ago when I was a city official in the Mayor’s office, I was asked to sit in on a meeting with the precinct captain of a district that included both black middle class and some “Inner city” “ghetto” areas. The meeting consisted of the police officers and several black women who were tired of the lack of law and order in their neighborhood. The captain explained that he had not more resources: he had patrols on overtime as it was. There was nothing to be done. I offered to send some of the Metro units in. These were elite police patrols who strictly enforced the law.  I warned the ladies that if we sent them in, they would come down hard on all criminal activity they saw.  All of it.  The ladies said that was very much what they wanted.

We sent some of the elite Metro units into the neighborhood. They began enforcing the law as they had been trained: not as community police, but as strict enforcement officers looking for good arrests. This was before Wilson’s “Broken Windows” theory became widely known, but I knew Wilson, and this was in that spirit: you don’t ignore minor infractions because that leads people to think you will ignore major ones.

The experiment lasted about a month, and the ladies reported they were really surprised at how much better conditions were; but there were black leaders who claimed that the district was being overpoliced. The LA Times talked about the invasion of the police. The mayor told me to get the Metro units out of there. Things went back to where they were before I attempted to intervene. Read the rest here… 

In anticipation of the furor, the Prosecutor took an unusual step and released all the transcripts and documentation of the Grand Jury proceedings immediately following the announcement of the finding. You can find comprehensive links here. Consider that the Grand Jury had to have known that not finding against the police officer would make more trouble than indicting him. The Federal government has already threatened them. But they weighed the evidence, and made a difficult decision.

The inimitable Larry Correia took the time to write a lengthy and excellent article about the legality (or not) of shooting someone. I cannot recommend it enough. Below is a snippet that relates closely to the Ferguson incident.

Reasonable Man – I will often refer to this. The question isn’t whether the shooter perceives themselves to be justified, but whether a “reasonable man” would perceive you to be justified. Contrary to popular opinion, you can’t just say “he was coming right at me!” and be justified in shooting somebody. The evidence will be examined and the question will be if you made the assumptions a reasonable man would make, and acted in a manner which seems reasonable based on that evidence. This is where the jury comes in, because they are a group of reasonable people who are going to look at your actions and your situation and make a call.  Basically, do your actions make sense to them? Would they believe similar things in the same situation?

To be legally justified in using lethal force against somebody you need to meet the following criteria.

  1. They have the Ability to cause you serious bodily harm.
  2. They have the Opportunity to cause you serious bodily harm.
  3. They are acting in a manner which suggests they are an Immediate Threat of serious bodily harm.

If your encounter fits these three criteria, then you are usually legally justified in using lethal force.

Finally, a data tool my criminal justice professor introduced us too is very interesting, when you compare the crime rates of Ferguson to the nearby city of St. Louis. This is not a town known for high crime, regardless of what the media has spun into legend.

Click on photo for more data

Click on photo for more data

st louis crime


14 thoughts on “Where did Ferguson come from?

  1. They CHOSE Ferguson as a place to make a stand. There are plenty of incidents, plenty of potential hero/victims created every day. Along with Trayvon Martin, they for some reason choose these things very poorly. They make a big stink about how innocent the “victim” is, and once the truth comes out, he’s not all that innocent at all. Of course, the truth has been terribly overshadowed by this point.

    Almost makes you wonder if they’ve been selected deliberately to divide the people smart enough to see that the narrative is a sham from those who are stupid enough to buy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here in town there is very little sympathy for the protesters and none for the looters. Last night there were several attempts to export the rioting to other neighborhoods and the locals weren’t having any of it. I live about a ten minute drive from Ferguson and I know a lot of people who live closer. My roommate works in a low income housing project in a township adjacent to Ferguson.

      Despite how it’s been sold in the media, this isn’t any kind of spontaneous uprising–it is something that is being done to the town, not something that anyone in town is doing. The locals want the protesters to go back home and the looters to go to jail.


    • I don’t think it’s anything quite so deliberate. Respectable people generally avoid the likes of Sharpton and Jackson. For example, there was a black man that was beaten and then run over by a white supremacist a few years ago. This incident was exactly the sort of thing Sharpton and Jackson could play with. I read, somewhere, that the victim’s mother was approached by one of them and she told them to pack sand. Those families that agree to work with S & J look a bit warped. They get treated like minor celebrities. I’m not sure if being treated like a celebrity because your son died is warping or if the people were a bit off to begin with (I’m inclined to the latter). Sharpton and Jackson have to take what they can get because the media play only works if the family cooperates with those driving the story.


  2. If these are maps of where crimes are committed, as a percentage of the population, you have to understand the demographics of the area. St. Louis City, for example, has a very small population compared to St. Louis County, but a large concentration of businesses.

    Far more people work in the City and live in the County than the reverse. (St. Louis City is not part of St. Louis County. No, it doesn’t make any sense to us, either.) This gives a very skewed picture of the crime statistics, since so many crimes take place within the City limits but do not involve either victims or perpetrators who reside within the City limits.


      • No, the numbers are crimes committed per 100,000 people. So for Ferguson, for instance, that number is about 248 crimes committed per 100,000 people. It’s a fairly common way of averaging out the numbers in a population census to provide a uniform comparison.


        • Yes, but my point is that the numbers are based on 100,000 residents. St. Louis City has many workers during the day, but fewer actual residents. If you counted the numbers of crimes per 100,000 who work 40 hours a week in the city, the map would not be so red.


          • the numbers remain the same. They reflect the actual census residency of the city. For instance, if you look at the numbers in Middletown, Ohio, you will see the same ratios, even though Middletown has at most 50,000 residents. This is a ratio that is used to be able to compare crime rates in disparate populations. You are, statistically, much more likely to be the victim of a crime in St. Louis than you are in Ferguson, regardless of whether the criminal/victim lives in the city or not.


            • By that reasoning, one is infinitely more likely to be a victim of a crime at a highway rest stop, since the official population of highway rest stops is zero–no one lives at one. Any crime at all would be infinite–one divided by zero.

              By dividing the number of crimes by the people who list St. Louis City as a residence–rather than the far larger number of people who work there every day–one comes up with an inflated ratio.


    • These are not percentages, but numbers of crimes per 100,000 people. Seeing more crime within a city and lesser as you move outward is a classic pattern called the Concentric Circle theory. Essentially, there are more people, and more ways to commit crime, in a city, than in the suburbs. Also, culturally, the poorest remain in the city while those who can get out. I think I need to do a follow-up post on culture and crime.


  3. Actually Cedar, statistically speaking, Misha is closer to right than you are. Your point that the concentration of people is directly proportional to the level of crime is correct, of course. The problem is that using ‘residency’ as a measure of concentration of people is potentially very flawed. A beach which has a massive New year party will have some crime, actually a high concentration of people (hence the crime) and zero residency. Unfortunately, residency is also the easiest and most accessible measurement of human density. It does however miss the entire point of statistical analysis, which is to allow one to compare apples with apples, even when some are oranges. Stats need common sense review to make sure they’re doing their job. Sadly, common sense is a lot less common than crime and seems inversely proportional to population density 🙂


    • I’m less concerned about using residency about a measure of people, than what the police in a given area have to deal with, and the risks inherent in living/working there. Unfortunately, I have to work with the data I can get, and looking at the stats on where a criminal lives, versus where he commits crimes, isn’t terribly helpful.


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