FBI Director Says Police Make ‘Sinister Associations’ When Dealing With Black Men

FBI Director James Comey said that police officers make “sinister associations” when dealing with black men. The federal official also said that police in the United States are at a “crossroads” with race relations, during a Georgetown University speech on Thursday.

James Comey is reportedly the first FBI director to speak about race relations and police activity at length in public. Director Comey also maintained the police officers “can be biased” in neighborhoods where black men commit crime.

He said that police officers who work in neighborhoods where most street crime is committed by young black men may hold unconscious biases and be tempted to take a “mental shortcut” in dealing with suspicious situations.

The FBI director had this to say about alleged police racial bias.

“The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two young white men on the other side of the street, even in the same clothes, do not. The officer does not make the same sinister association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or black.”

Breaking the cycle, of which entails minorities in poor neighborhoods frequently inheriting a “legacy of crime and prison,” will improve the alleged race relations problem police have when dealing with black men, according to FBI Director Comey.

“Not to take anything away from the previous directors, but it was almost as though they thought, ‘This is something we shouldn’t weigh into,”’ Executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum Chuck Wexler said during an interview about Comey’s comment and race relations with the New York Times. “The FBI director is looked upon by police chiefs who have been talking about this issue for years as a very important person, but they haven’t used their position as a bully pulpit to underscore how important civil rights and race is in policing.”

James Comey was a federal prosecutor serving the Southern District of New York for a few years before transferring to Washington as deputy attorney general after the 9/11 attacks. Most recently, Comey has been an executive at Lockheed Martin, general counsel to a hedge fund, board member at HSBC Holdings, and a Columbia Law School national security lecturer, according to the Daily Mail. Comey wrote a controversial editorial while a student at William and Mary College, taking the school to task for a lack of perceived efforts to “foster diversity.”

What do you think about the FBI director’s race relations and the police?

[Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]