FBI Director to Cops: Don’t Listen to ‘Armchair Critics’

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FBI Director Christopher Wray, at his installation, ceremony 2017. Photo courtesy FBI

Improved communication and collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies is essential to confront the “unprecedented” threats to public safety that the United States faces, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Sunday.

Speaking at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Orlando, Wray also cited the background noise that law enforcers face in dealing with “armchair critics.” Wray did not mention Donald Trump in his speech, but the president has made a habit of attacking the FBI as “corrupt” on Twitter.

Wray listed these law enforcement “significant challenges”:

  • The opiate crisis. More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, “and by all accounts, the problem is getting worse,” Wray said. He urged a renewed effort to reduce the narcotics supply from China and Mexico. “This has become a national security issue that plays itself out on our streets every day,” he said.
  • Mass violence. “In 2017 alone, there were 30 separate active shootings in the United States—the biggest number ever recorded by the FBI during a one-year period,” Wray said.
  • International and domestic terrorism. “The homegrown violent extremist threat is the new normal,” Wray said. “These folks are largely radicalized online, and they’re inspired by the global jihadist movement.” He said the bureau has terrorist investigations in all 50 states, and arrests have been made “all over the map, in cities big and small.”
  • Cyber security. “The cyber threat continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and the more we shift to the Internet as the conduit and the repository for everything we use and share and manage, the more danger we’re in,” he said.

“We need to rely on each other for information, for experience and best practices, for new ideas and new ways of looking at old problems,” Wray told the police chiefs, according to a transcript provided by the FBI. Among other things, he cited an effort by big-city chiefs and county sheriffs “to develop a comprehensive threat assessment to help law enforcement leaders better identify, analyze, and prioritize the major threats facing their communities.”

Wray, 51, was appointed by Trump in August 2017 following his controversial dismissal of James Comey. Wray, just the eighth man to lead the agency, has been buffeted by Trump’s Twitter criticisms of the FBI and the Department of Justice–and their leaders, including Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Among numerous other examples, Trump tweeted on Sept. 1, “You’ve got corruption at the DOJ & FBI. The leadership of the DOJ & FBI are completely out to lunch in terms of exposing and holding those accountable who are responsible for that corruption.”

While failing to mention Trump, Wray closed with a riff on the wearying strain that detractors bring to an already taxing occupation.

“Our jobs seem to be getting more daunting each day,” Wray said. “And there are lots of days when you think there’s got to be an easier way to make a living.”

He offered this piece of advice: “Tune out the noise, the chatter, and the armchair critics. Focus on the work, and the people we do the work for. Heads up, eyes forward, shoulder-to-shoulder. We’ll forge ahead—together.”

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