In a candid reflection of the history of the relationship between police and the African American community, FBI Director James Comey asks the policing professionals to better understand and address the roots of cynicism and distrust.
“We in law enforcement have to see ourselves clearly. We need to understand our history, much of which is not pretty. The truth is that the history of law enforcement in the United States was that we were often the enforcers of the status quo, which was mighty rough on a whole lot of folks especially minority communities, immigrant communities, communities without power. We have to remember that history because the people we serve and protect cannot forget it. “
“The FBI’s own history is decidedly mixed during the Civil Rights Era. . . . [reference to improper attempts to discredit Dr. King by J. Edgar Hoover]. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government left protection of civil rights to state and local governments. As you know all too well, many murders went uninvestigated or were covered up or were misidentified as an accident. Evidence was scarce, prosecution was really hard and trails ran cold. It took the Mississippi Burning case and the Civil Rights Act for the federal government to get off the sidelines and begin to fully protect civil rights for black people. We were late to this fight.
“Research points to the existence of unconscious bias in nearly all of us. We all carry various biases around us and with us. We react differently to a face that looks different than our own. We have to stare at that and own that because biology is not destiny. It’s what we do next after some reflexive reaction that makes all the difference.”
James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI/BCRI Annual Conference on Civil Rights, 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, May 25, 2016