FBI Director James Comey
By Liz Peek
When it comes to criminal justice reform, whom are you going to believe? James Comey, the nation’s top cop, or politicians eager to curry favor with the black community?
FBI chief James Comey earned himself a summons to the Oval Office last week by telling the truth about the war on crime. President Obama suggests that racial bias has led to too many black men being locked up and vows to combat “disparities in the application of criminal justice.” Comey argues that tough policing in minority neighborhoods has saved thousands of black lives and that the recent upsurge in homicides may reflect the “YouTube” effect — making police officers nervous to do their jobs. The good news is that Comey, imbued with an impressive independence streak, has another 8 years to serve. Even though Obama could presumably pressure him to resign, he can’t fire him.
Democrats and Republicans alike have hopped aboard the criminal justice bandwagon, noting the large incarceration rate in the United States and the disproportionate number of prisoners of color. Hillary Clinton hit a common theme when she noted in a speech last spring, “It’s a stark fact that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25 percent of the world’s total prison population.” She fails to note that the disparity stems fromhigher crime rates. Homicides in the U.S. run seven times the rate in other developed countries, according to a 2011 study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the UCLA School of Public Health.
Clinton also gets it backwards with her next statement: “The numbers today are much higher than they were 30, 40 years ago, despite the fact that crime is at historic lows.”
Many would suggest that crime is at historic lows because so many criminals have been put behind bars. Comey made that case recently, speaking at the University of Chicago Law School. He reminds us that not so long ago, urban crime, especially in minority neighborhoods, was horrific. In New York City, 2,000 homicides a year was considered the norm in the 1980s and 1990s; last year there were 328. As Comey notes, “White people weren’t dying; black people were dying. Most white people could drive around the problem. If you were white and not involved in the drug trade as a buyer or a seller, you were largely apart from the violence.”
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