The Department of Justice’s report on its investigation of the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department debunked one of the nation’s most popular policing philosophies, and hardly anyone noticed.
It seems much of the media was too caught up by the report’s salacious details to take note of the questions it raises around the policing theory cops there likely used to justify their heinous actions.
“Broken Windows” is the term used to describe the theory that says that by aggressively policing minor offenses, police departments can discourage larger ones. The policing model that result from the Broken Windows theory is characterized by a zero-tolerance approach to the even the smallest offenses. Police stops, summonses, and arrests all increase as a result of it.
It’s likely that some police departments adopt Broken Windows tactics because they fit the worldview and general outlook on policing of those in charge. But analysis after analysis has borne out that there’s no direct correlation between Broken Windows and crime reduction. So one highly plausible reason for it’s continued deployment is the amount of money local governments can rake by practicing it.