As reported by the Washington Post, In an unusually frank and personal speech, FBI Director James B. Comeyon Thursday addressed “hard truths” about policing, acknowledging racial bias among law enforcement officers and lamenting a “disconnect” between police agencies and communities of color.
“We are at a crossroads,” Comey said. “As a society, we can choose to live our lives every day, raising our families, going to work and hoping someone, somewhere will do something to ease the tension, to smooth over the conflict. . . . Or we can choose instead to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today.” In giving the speech, to students at Georgetown University, Comey placed himself at the heart of the politically charged debate on race, policing and use of force that has so often riven minority communities during the Obama administration.
Police “often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color,” Comey said. “Something happens to people of goodwill working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel.”
A police officer, whether “white or black,” has a different reaction to two young black men on the side of a street than he does to two white men, Comey said, because the black men “look like so many others the officer has locked up.” Comey’s speech follows a series of high-profile cases in which police have been accused of racial bias, including the fatal shooting in August of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer, as well as the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white police officer in New York City in July.