James Comey Returns to Howard University for ‘A Conversation on Law Enforcement and Race’

By: Amber Robinson

Howard faculty, staff and students piled in Founders browsing room on Tuesday, Feb. 13 to witness an intriguing conversation on law enforcement and race. The executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center and former Howard law student, Justin Hansford sat down with former FBI director James Comey and discussed the importance of racial equality and police enforcement.

Both James and Justin prepared a list of questions to ask each other discuss in front of the audience. Topics like the role of the FBI and the Black Lives Matter movement were all included in the insightful conversations.

“How do we create a more just society?” asked Hansford.

“For me, this is all about a homecoming story.” Justin explains when asked about his background. Influenced by the critical race theory and other movements concerning racial equality, he is currently standing up for what he believes in. He clarifies that his center is not just for current or future law students, but it is a deal for anyone who wants to make a difference in our communities.

He also expressed his concerns about how police handle situations in minority communities. “Instead of arresting people off the street, we should be putting them in mental health facilities to get them help,” he said. He proposed ideas of “merging” the two issues of race and policing.

Comey gave insight about his motives during his tenure as director of the FBI. When asked about what specifics he did in terms of leadership, he responded, “Not enough. I tried to make the agents stare at history.”

He expressed that all he could do to improve the Secret Service was to enlighten them on what has already happened, and stressed that history doesn’t need to be repeated. He explains that the FBI could not be effective to its full potential due to the lack of diversity. “You can’t have a room full of stiff white guys,” he said. He informs Hansford and the audience that the FBI is expected to solve problems, and that the FBI’s “problems are much bigger than the police.” 

During the conversation, Students of HU-Resist gathered outside of founders library in protest to Comey’s placement at howard. The program lasted for about 2 hours. It followed up with a few audience questions ending with refreshments and an opportunity to speak with both Comey and Hansford.


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