James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently said that a healthy dialogue concerning the issues of race and policing was necessary if American society wanted to prevent more highly questionable killings of African-American males by members of law enforcement.
In a very candid address to an audience of students and professors at Georgetown University in the nation’s capitol, Director Comey, who was appointed to head the FBI by President Barack Obama, said that all police officers perceived black and white men differently, and that the history between law enforcement and African Americans was severely tainted.
“All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,” said Director Comey who has led the FBI since 2013. “At many points in American history law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups,” he added.
Director Comey, a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General in the administration of former President George W. Bush, said that the historical relationship between African Americans and the police “should be a part of every American’s consciousness.” He said that the relationship should be studied and remembered.
I applaud the honesty with which Director Comey approaches an issue that should concern all people of goodwill and prudence. Just last year, communities across our country experienced violent and non-violent protests in the wake of the deaths of African American males who were slain by police officers.
During his speech, Director Comey said that the acrimonious relationships between the police and community members could be changed if the police and the people they were sworn to protect communicated more closely with one another.
Like Director Comey I believe that differences between people can be changed. We must continue our discussions around concepts such as Community Policing. We must be brutally honest and not afraid of offending each other’s sensibilities. There is too much at stake for us to shy away from the realties that confront us.
To his credit, the director of the FBI has taken a huge step in the right direction for all of us. We must continue the discussion, and engage people in constructive dialogue. We must begin now. If not, the painful experiences of our past will be the realities of our future.