Thursday, February 12, 2015

there's a very compelling reason comey was tapped to address the issue of law enforcement and race


NYTimes |  The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, on Thursday will wade into the national debate about the relationship between police officers and African-Americans that was highlighted by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., in August. It will be the first time one of the bureau’s directors has publicly addressed the issue of race at length.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Mr. Comey is expected to say that much research shows that people in a society with a majority of whites unconsciously react differently to blacks. The text of Mr. Comey’s speech has not been released by the F.B.I., but several bureau officials described parts of it.

He also plans to say that in areas where nonwhites commit a majority of the crimes, law enforcement officers can become cynical and develop mental shortcuts that lead them to more closely scrutinize members of minority groups.

Mr. Comey is expected to say that most police officers are not racists, and that they chose their profession because they wanted to help protect others, regardless of whether those people are white, black or another ethnicity.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said that by addressing race, Mr. Comey was beginning “to show how he’s a much different F.B.I. director than the previous ones.”

Previous directors have limited their public comments about race to civil rights investigations, like into murders committed by the Ku Klux Klan and how the bureau wiretapped the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The surveillance of Dr. King is considered one of the F.B.I.’s greatest overreaches of power.

Mr. Comey, who has led the F.B.I. for about 18 months, has said that as part of his job, he wants to foster a national debate about law enforcement issues that state and local authorities across the country are facing.