White House officials were irritated that FBI director James Comey has suggested in two speeches that there is a link between recent protests against excessive use of force by police and this year's spike in homicides in some major U.S. cities, the Washington Post reports. This theory is dubbed “the Ferguson effect,” a reference to the aftermath of the 2014 police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. President Obama and Comey met privately Thursday. Neither White House nor Justice Department officials would describe the conversation.
Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum said Comey’s message “resonated with a lot of us, because local police departments have been grappling with the issues of hiring, diversity and allegations of racial profiling for some time now.” Obama has publicly rejected the analysis Comey has offered, which was based on Comey’s informal survey of his field staff and police. The two men have also diverged on whether the federal government erred in giving so many drug offenders extended sentences during the 1980s and '90s. Obama has issued pardons to dozens of such felons and is pressing to reduce the mandatory minimum sentences retroactively and for future offenders, while Comey said they had a positive impact and “didn't happen en masse.”