"With the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, and the ongoing protests throughout the country, and the assassinations of NYPD officers Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos, we are at a crossroads. As a society we can choose to live our lives everyday raising our families, going to work and hoping that someone somewhere will do something to ease the tension, to smooth over the conflict. We can roll up our car windows, turn up the radio and drive around these problems. Or we can choose instead to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today. What it should be, what it could be, what it needs to be."
2. SOUNDBITE (English) James Comey, FBI Director:
"Something happens to people in law enforcement many of us develop many flavors of cynicism that we work hard to resist because they can be lazy mental shortcuts. For example, criminal suspects routinely lie about their guilt and nearly everybody that we charge is guilty. That makes it easy for some folks in law enforcement to assume that everybody is lying and that no suspect regardless of their race could be innocent. Easy but wrong. Likewise, police officers on patrol in our nation's cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of good will working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can't help but influenced by the cynicism they feel, a mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights. The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. The two young white men on the other side of the street, even in the same clothes, do not. The officer does not make the same sinister association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or black, and that drives different behavior."
The country is at a crossroads on matters of race relations and law enforcement, presenting "hard truths" that must be confronted by both citizens and the police, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.
Comey used a speech at Georgetown University to offer his most expansive take yet on a debate that has roiled in the nation in recent months about police use of force and interactions with minority communities.
The deaths at the heads of white police officers of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, as well as the more recent slayings of two New York police officers, have raised "hard truths" on both sides of the debate.
One is that police officers who work in neighborhoods where most street crime is committed by young black men may be informed by unconscious biases and tempted to make what he called a "mental shortcut"
"The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up," Comey said. "Two young white men on the other side of the street, even in the same clothes, do not. The officer does not make the same sinister association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or black."
But another truth is that minorities in poor neighborhoods too often inherit a "legacy of crime and prison," a cycle he said must be broken to improve race relations with police.