Ferguson Effect has some police officers pulling back from arrests and stops, fearing being scrutinized

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- From protests to viral videos, it's a tough time to be a cop.

"Officers are very hesitant to give their 100 because it may mean they may show up in the headlines of the news," said Memphis Police Union President Mike Williams.

Shootings around the country have put police actions on the radar, but they have also produced something  called the Ferguson Effect.

After the deadly shootings of African-Americans by police around the country and the intense scrutiny that followed, the Ferguson Effect shows some police officers appear to be pulling back from making stops and arrests over fear their actions will be scrutinized.

The Pew Research Center interviewed 8,000 officers across the country. It found there's a fear among police about their safety and about carrying out every day police work.

Seventy-six-percent said they`re more reluctant to use force.

Seventy-two-percent were reluctant to stop and question people who seem suspicious.

In some big cities, studies also found a dramatic drop in the number of stops and arrests within police departments.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said the Ferguson Effect may be more of an issue other places than here in Memphis.

"Do I think the Ferguson Effect was a national phenomenon? Yes I do. Because different police chiefs are talking about it. If you talk to officers, they are talking about it. Are they concerned with being the next viral video? Yes. Does it effect they way they police? Well, yes," said Rallings.

The numbers in Memphis seem to follow the trend.

From 2013 to 2016, the number of arrests by Memphis Police  dropped from 77,000 in 2013 to just 48,000 last year.

The number of police stops have also dropped from 17,000 in 2013 to 11,000 last year.

Traffic stops were also down.

Director Rallings said there's a reason.

"We have had a steady decline in staff also. Again if you have less officers available, if you are doing less proactive because of more protests, it makes common sense that the arrests would be down. It is no shocker to us. We attribute it to staffing more than anything."

"Officers are running from call to call. They are stressed out. I think it's a culmination and a combination of a lot of things," added Williams.

As head of the Memphis Police Association, Williams represents officers on the streets and said the atmosphere across the country is having an impact here at home.

"They are kinda hesitant about making those calls, because it's an officer's safety, issue number one and it's also a public perception," he said.

What's even more interesting is the other trend that seems to coincide.

As arrests and stops have gone down, one thing that has risen in many larger cities is the homicide rate.

In Memphis, there were 150 homicides in 2013 to a staggering 228 last year.

"When you have a presence of police, a lot of times it deters crime. Plus it also gives the officers the ability to respond in a timely manner," said Williams.

A job that comes with a lot of responsibility, but that also takes a toll.

"We tell the truth, encourage the officers to continue to go out there and do the job we pay them to do. We encourage them to be professional and courteous. Most of all we remind them to be safe because they have just as much right as anyone else to when they go to work to make it home safely to their families," said Rallings.

Director Rallings said despite a staffing shortage, the 911 center took in almost 2.2 million calls last year, more than ever. Despite that, Rallings said the department was still able to reduce response times.

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