James Comey Speaks on Law Enforcement and Race During First Lecture Series At Howard University

By: Kamilah Tom

WASHINGTON – Former Director of FBI, James Comey, acknowledged that progress has been made between law enforcement and communities of color, yet it is still not enough and there is a lot more progress to be made.

“We are a long way from a point where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like flowing streams,” Comey said referencing the words of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite Bible scriptures.

Appointed by Howard University as the 2017-2018 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy, Comey uses this opportunity as a prominent leader to contribute to a conversation amongst the Howard community through a lecture series entitled “Conversations on Law Enforcement And Race.” Oct. 25 marked the first of the five lecture series.

Students, faculty and staff filled Howard University’s Founders Library Browsing Room to listen to what Comey had to say about one of America’s most pressing issues today. Before addressing those in the room, Comey asserted that though he came to teach and have an informed conversation, he also came to learn.

In the discussion Comey expressed his concern about the steady spike in homicides in the “vulnerable” cities across America, specifically in black communities. He presented many probable causes that could be the basis of why murder rates are increasing. Comey included that it could be the disconnect between police and the communities by stating that there is a “chasm that separate law enforcement and the communities that law enforcement is supposed to serve.”

To dig deeper in order to find what could be the root cause of the increase in murder rates he raised the probability that there could be a change in human behavior, amongst those in law enforcement and in the communities, which can contribute to the rise in violence.

“I hope that one of the things we can discuss over the next nine months is whether it is possible that people change their behavior, both cops and the communities, in response to highly publicized events,” said Comey.

Comey stressed importance of having better data in this country “because data means fact and facts help us find truth and understanding,” he said. “It’s ridiculous and frightening that in the United States of America in 2017 we do not know how many people were shot by the police last week, last month or last year.”  

Before he was fired, he made efforts to have an up-to-date system to gather the data of police officers using deadly force in this country as well as efforts to diversify the FBI staff.

To conclude his lecture Comey said, “I believe it will take all of us, every single member in the community to fight for change, to fight for equality and fairness.”

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