FBI director James Comey today wades into the national debate about the relationship between police officers and African Americans that was highlighted by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., in August. It will be the first time an FBI director has publicly addressed the issue of race at length, says the New York Times. Speaking at Georgetown University, Comey plans to say that much research shows that people in a society with a majority of whites unconsciously react differently to blacks. He also plans to say that in areas where nonwhites commit a majority of the crimes, law enforcement officers can become cynical and develop mental shortcuts that lead them to scrutinize closely members of minority groups.
Comey is expected to say that most police officers are not racists, and that they chose their profession because they wanted to help protect others, regardless of whether those people are white, black or another ethnicity. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum said that by addressing race, Comey was beginning “to show how he's a much different FBI director than the previous ones.” Previous directors have limited their public comments about race to civil rights investigations. Comey, who has led the FBI for about 18 months, has said that he wants to foster a national debate about law enforcement issues that state and local authorities are facing.