A few viral videos have created the false perception that there’s an epidemic of police violence against black men, FBI director James Comey said this weekend.
Speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference Sunday, Comey praised most law-enforcement officers as “overwhelmingly good people,” while also admitting the abuses of a few bad cops.
Comey also highlighted a new initiative to improve data about police shootings. The Department of Justice will begin collecting numbers from federal, state and local law enforcement in 2017.
Without those detailed statistics, Comey said, well-meaning Americans have bought into “a narrative driven by video images of real and gut-wrenching misconduct, by images of possible misconduct, by images of perceived misconduct. … a narrative given force by the awesome power of human empathy.”
That narrative has led to “a chasm of distrust and fear” between law enforcement and black communities, Comey said.
The viral videos showing police abuse have made good officers hesitant to make traffic stops or engage in other routine policing activities, while also making good citizens distrustful of cooperating with authorities, he said, adding that “into the chasm, into that gap of distrust, fall more dead young black men.”
The database will help Americans have an informed conversation about police violence, while also helping law enforcement address real abuses, Comey said.