FBI director: Data does not reflect concerns of epidemic of police violence

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, pictured testifying to Congress in July, told attendees of a national police conference on Sunday that data does not back up widespread conversations around the country about an epidemic of overpolicing and killing of black men. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 17 (UPI) — The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation told police officers at a national conference the data does not back up talk of an epidemic of situations involving police shooting black men.

The data does not back up theories on police-involved shootings and race, but that data needs to be collected and a more honest conversation about the relationships between police and communities needs to happen, FBI Director James Comey said a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Comey said that while most cops are good people, the handful of “bad cops” caught on tape — and videos that then go viral online and are discussed by millions of people across the country — is causing people to believe the problem is far worse than it is.

“In the absence of information, we have anecdotes, we have videos, we have good people believing something terrible is happening in this country,” Comey said in a speech at the conference. “In a nation of almost one million sworn law enforcement officers, and tens of millions of police encounters every year, a small group of videos serves as proof of an epidemic.”

Comey said the lack of hard numbers on the shootings, and overall unnecessary violence by police, means “good people” have come to believe biased police are killing people at epidemic rates. He questions whether there is truly an epidemic because the government has no idea due to the lack of data.

The Department of Justice last week took steps to start gathering and analyzing information next year to help clarify the number of police killings happening and how many are tied to race.

Comey said accurate data, as well as working with communities to improve their relationship with police, could help improve the perception and the actual situation.

“There are bad cops. There are departments with troubled cultures. Unfortunately, people are flawed,” Comey said. “But for law enforcement, the spotlight is brighter, and the standards are higher. And that’s the way it should be.”


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