Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Dr. Jessie Lee
The Ferguson effect is a recent hypothesis that suggests police officers have been influenced by negative media coverage of police conduct. The problem this study addressed is how policing continues to deal with perception, civil liability, and accountability issues related to police misconduct when interacting with Latino and African-American communities. The research was conducted to examine influence the Ferguson effect may have had on the culture and perceptions of police officers in local police departments. With a phenomenological qualitative approach, the research data were collected from interviews with 7 police officers across 3 police departments. The theoretical background of Merton's theory of unintended consequences offered insights into how law enforcement functions and the kinds of policies that affect police-civilian relations. Data was analyzed with NVivo 12 data analysis software. Four predominant themes emerged: (1) commitment to service, (2) police officers' perception of the media, (3) impact of the Ferguson Effect, and (4) attitudes toward civil liability. The research indicates that the officers shared a strong commitment to service as well as being satisfied overall with the police department where they work. In addition, the participants acknowledged the Ferguson effect but did not believe it prevented them from performing their sworn duties. With this research study, the police officers' voices can be added to the national debate regarding the Ferguson effect and their perception of its impact on their culture in local police departments, community engagement with minority citizens, and civil liability.