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Boston Globe: FBI Director James Comey Damaged Credibility As Crime-Fighter

FBI Director James Comey in Chicago delivering speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police. (ticklethewire.com photo)

FBI Director James Comey in Chicago delivering speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police. (ticklethewire.com photo)

By Editorial Board
Boston Globe

Over the last week, FBI Director James Comey has done serious damage to his credibility as the nation’s top crime-fighter. To repeat an old saw, he has figuratively shot himself in both feet, with two ill-considered speeches on the so-called post-Ferguson world where police hold back because of fears of smartphone-wielding citizens. His comments have drawn fierce criticism from civil libertarians, law enforcement analysts, and the White House itself – and rightly so.

The “age of viral videos” has fundamentally altered policing, Comey told an audience at the University of Chicago Law School. “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? . . . I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.” Then, in case no one had gotten the message, he upped the ante at the International Association of Chiefs of Police a few days later, feeding the misguided notion that an outbreak of constitutionally protected community scrutiny has fueled a crime wave.

But Comey’s Cassandra act is not supported by statistics. In fact, the data don’t suggest that there is a long-term spike in violent crime in the United States, according to James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law, and public policy at Northeastern University. In Seattle, police chief Kathleen O’Toole says crime is down this year and told the New York Times: “There’s never been as much scrutiny on police officers as there is now. We should embrace it.”

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