The Ferguson Effect: How False Media Narratives Fueled A Generation Of Anti-Police Activism


Long before George Floyd tragically died under the knee of disgraced former police officer Derek Chauvin on a Minneapolis street in May of 2020, police officers across the country were being maligned as racist murderers by the media and their puppeteer politicians.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last eight years, you most likely saw or heard the fiery rants at the anti-police BLM protests.

Chants like “Hands up, don’t shoot” were heard, referring to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in August of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. “I can’t breathe” was the mantra for the tragic death of Eric Garner in 2014 in New York City, and then “All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray,” was heard in the streets of Baltimore following Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with police.

Those catchphrases and the names of the deceased, along with others who have died in violent encounters with police, were plastered on the jerseys of prominent athletes all across the sports world, of which some took a knee during the national anthem in protest of a “racist” country.

Hollywood celebrities starred in PSAs maligning the police. The NBA painted Black Lives Matter on their basketball courts, while former Mayor Bill de Blasio did the same on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

It was reported that Brown, Garner, and Gray were murdered by racist police officers roaming the streets looking to shoot “people of color.” It was broadcasted that they were victims of a systemic racism that permeates through the 18,000 police departments across the country and the courts in all of those jurisdictions.

No matter that those departments and courts – especially those in large metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – have been run by liberal lawmakers for decades and are among the most racially diverse in the world.

No matter that each state and city has its own police department acting independently of each other.

No matter that they have their own chiefs, commissioners, district attorneys, and mayors making and enforcing the laws and dictating policy.

In each of the officer-involved shootings detailed above, the fiction that was shoved down the public’s throat by corrupt, irresponsible, leftist media, in order to create a narrative and shape public opinion against the police, isn’t even close to the truth.

The public has been lied to, manipulated, and used, and the effects of the propaganda these ideologues are spewing will continue to be felt by citizens for many years to come. It’s what many in the law enforcement community are beginning to refer to as the “Ferguson Effect.”

The tallest tale the media told was in Ferguson, Missouri. Within hours of Michael Brown’s death, the media dubbed him “The Gentle Giant.” To further cement their characterization of him as an innocent, lovable teenager, they adorned the front pages of their newspapers and websites with his high school graduation photo and another seemingly innocent, prepubescent photo of him wearing headphones.

Initially, there was no mention of him having committed a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store moments before his deadly encounter with officer Wilson. 

There was no mention that Wilson was a six-year veteran of the department with a spotless disciplinary record. Rather, officer Wilson was vilified as a cold-blooded murderer who executed an innocent young man and an aspiring student.

Brown’s sidekick, Dorian Johnson, had a story the propagandist hacks in the media seemed to be waiting for. Johnson insisted that Brown was shot in the back while running away from Wilson, and he was then executed while kneeling on the ground with his hands up, begging for his life.

No matter the story had almost no corroboration from anyone. It fit the false narrative the media was all too ready to broadcast. 

Violent riots and looting sprang up in the streets of Ferguson, and, as the city burned, people sat in their living rooms watching the carnage, listening to the pundits and faux journalists spew outrage at another injustice due to the so-called systemic racism of our criminal justice system and our out-of-control cops.

There was no way of knowing that virtually none of what Johnson said was true. 

No way of knowing that, years later, all of the six accused officers in the Gray case would be exonerated in court by grand juries of their peers in their liberal cities. 

No way of knowing that those same officers would be reinstated in their jobs or that the prosecutor in the case would be forced to resign for prosecutorial misconduct. 

No way of knowing that police officer Daniel Pantaleo, accused of murdering Garner, would not be indicted.

No way of knowing that it wasn’t the first time Dorian Johnson was accused of lying to the police – Johnson had an active warrant for filing a false police report in nearby Jefferson County in 2011.

Any doubt that Johnson was lying was quickly dismissed by the word of a St. Louis County Grand Jury and then United States attorney general Eric Holder – perhaps the most left-winged, corrupt attorney general in the history of the country before Merrick Garland.

Yet, by March of 2015, the Justice Department’s comprehensive investigation and report into the death of Michael Brown completely exonerated officer Wilson and rejected Johnson’s story. The forensic evidence was overwhelming and succinctly corroborated Darren Wilson’s step-by-step version of the events. Wilson was not a criminal. He was a hero.

Aside from the great loss of Michael Brown’s life and the pain caused to his family, other damage resulted from this incident. Police Officer Darren Wilson and his family were destroyed in the aftermath. He was stripped of his livelihood and reputation before the fires in Ferguson were extinguished. 

Charles H. Webb said it best when he said, “There is no nice way to arrest a potentially dangerous, combative suspect. The police are our bodyguards; our hired fists, batons and guns. We pay them to do the dirty work of protecting us. The work we’re too afraid, too unskilled, or too civilized to do ourselves…We just don’t want to see how it’s done.”

Unfortunately, what happened in Ferguson, and in the years following, has made police officers afraid to do their jobs.

A recent survey conducted by the NYPD in 2022 found that 80% of its officers and their supervisors feared aggressively fighting crime for fear of lawsuits or being unfairly disciplined.

Experienced officers are retiring or resigning in droves, and, while they walk out the door in places like New York City, departments are struggling to recruit qualified candidates. In the NYPD’s July 2022 class, they were only able to recruit half the number they hoped for, even after lowering physical fitness standards for new applicants.

For the police officers coming in and those who remain, the leftist, anti-police propaganda has made the job of policing extremely difficult. This is especially true in large, liberal run cities where rules implemented in the name of protecting the public from the “lawless cops” have compromised the safety of the officer in the street and completely neutered their ability to enforce the law.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Things are changing. More people are paying attention. Residents in the higher crime areas and those who no longer feel safe in their upscale neighborhoods are beginning to make noise. They are clamoring for more police on the street. They aren’t buying the insane notion that less incarceration makes us all safer. That is where the change has to start. The people of these cities have to demand it from their political leaders.

As I’ve stated in other columns: change starts at the top. Let’s hope this is the beginning of real change and a major step toward removing the handcuffs from our brave officers in the street and making the Ferguson Effect a thing of the past.

John Dove is a retired NYPD Detective Lieutenant and the former co-executive producer of CSI-NY starring Gary Sinise.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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