James Comey, the director of the FBI, sparked fireworks among Obama administration officials when he said police around the nation are hesitating to get out of their cars because of the prevalence of cell-phone cameras being held by youthful bystanders and activists.
“Officers are answering 9-1-1 calls,” Comey said, in remarks broadcast on Fox News, “but [they’re] avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns.”
Comey said informal conversations with police have led him to conclude law enforcement is “under siege” by those who see the system as unfair and discriminatory toward minorities.
“I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young peole with mobile phones held high, taunting them when they get out of their cars,” Comey said. “They said to me, ‘We feel under siege [and] we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.'”
Comey made the statements while addressing some of the crime wave stat hikes in communities across the nation. As Fox News reported, crime has risen 52.5 percent in Baltimore; 51.5 percent in St. Louis; 44.8 percent in Washington, D.C.; 19.2 percent in Chicago; and 8.3 percent in New York City.
And Comey, among other leading law enforcement officials, are dubbing the crime increases the “Ferguson effect,” after the widely reported Ferguson, Missouri, wave of violence and federal investigations in the wake of a white police officer’s shooting of a black teen. From that incident sprung the Black Lives Matter movement, an activist group that alleges police are racist and purposely target blacks.
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Comey’s comments sparked immediate backlash from the White House.
“I don’t know if Director Comey has communicated those views to the president directly,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “I would say that the available evidence does not support the notion that law enforcement officers around the country are shying away from fulfilling their responsibilities.”
Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, however, sided with Comey.
“Clearly, police officers are hesitating,” he said, during a Fox News interview. “They’re not engaging in the way they engaged for the last two decades, quite frankly. That’s why crime [had been] down significantly throughout the country.[But] police are backing off now and anybody who denies it is not facing reality.”
The Obama administration has vowed to overhaul how police departments around the nation conduct business. Currently, the White House and Justice Department are investigating 20 different complaints and cases against police agencies around the country, Fox News said.