Director Comey Addresses Black Law Enforcement Executives

FBI Director James B. Comey addressed the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) in Atlanta, Georgia. His remarks touched on diversity, terrorism, and the need for better reporting of incidents where force is used by police.

Video Transcript

Among the facts that I think will be useful to the conversation all of us are trying to have in this country are facts about encounters between law enforcement and civilians—violent encounters. Facts about what happened, who was involved, what was the nature of the injury or the death, what were the circumstances.

As I said at Georgetown I think it’s ridiculous that in a country where you could tell today from your smartphone how many certain kinds of books were sold at Amazon or how many folks exactly went to emergency rooms with flu symptoms last week in Atlanta or New York or in San Francisco that I cannot tell you how many folks were shot in encounters with the police last year.

I can't tell you last week. I can't tell you the last 50 years.

In the absence of that data, all conversations about policing and policy are uninformed. And that is not a good place to be. We can do better. I hope that you as leaders of law enforcement in this country will help us at the FBI push for better data.

I believe that NIBRS is the pathway to better data—to richer data—that we can all use to have informed conversations about the most important issues we face. But I also hope you’ll give me feedback—you’ll give us feedback—about other ways to collect that data, if there are better way to incentivize people to collect that data. We need that advice and that feedback.

But there is no escaping, we must do better and collect information so we can have informed conversations in this country about the most important work we do.

So I’m going to make it my personal mission to continue to push to get us better data so we can have better conversations.

While I’m on the topic of race, I want to share with you some thoughts about diversity and hiring, I explain to my workforce that of course diversity is about doing the right thing. But it’s also about effectiveness. It’s about being good at what we do. We are simply less effective when we are less diverse.

There are a whole lot of ways in which diversity increase effectiveness. Obviously it allows us to connect better to communities that we serve. It allows us to more effectively develop relationships with witnesses, with victims, with potential sources.

It allows us to represent and have credibility with this great and diverse country as we try to protect it.

I believe that diversity of viewpoint is the path. It is the only path to better decisions and a more effective organization. People with different life experiences make us better leaders. So diversity matters.

Now some thoughts about terrorism. I want to explain to you how the terrorism threat has changed and why you matter more today in my view than maybe you did on 9/11 because of the way the threat has changed.

That threat is not focused on landmarks; it’s not focused on Washington or New York. ISIL is issuing a siren song to troubled souls urging them to come to the caliphate or, if you can't come, kill somebody in our name. They are doing things that would be strange and unrecognizable to core al Qaida.

When they reach somebody in the United States they will assign them something to do as a way of testing their bona fides—something that al Qaida would never have done.

And the way they are coming at us represents a second big change in the threat. ISIL in particular has gotten very slick at using social media—at pushing its poisonous propaganda out through a chaotic spider web that is Facebook or Twitter, reaching into this country to push their poison and to issue that siren song to that troubled individual: come to the caliphate or kill in our name if you can't come.

That is a very different terrorist threat than we faced 10 years ago. And why am I telling you this? Because it is highly unlikely to be a federal agent who will first hear about that troubled soul who was radicalizing, who will first hear about somebody who was acting in a weird way in an education institution or religious institution or online or in a neighborhood.

It is much more likely to be one of your folks, to be a deputy sheriff, to be a police officer on patrol who knows a neighborhood. And all of us, all of us, are involved in responding to this threat because it is not focused as I said on New York or Washington; it is wherever there are troubled people. And there are troubled people in all 50 states.

It is the reason that I have homegrown violent extremism investigations in all 50 states. In all 50 states there are people who are in some state of consuming this propaganda moving towards radicalization.

Our task is to find them and disrupt them. That is nearly an impossible task But it is one I believe we together as a law enforcement are up to and that we simply must pursue.

We must find in that haystack those needles. And we’ve got to pull them out of there before they do harm. This is a new terrorism threat. It is one that is dispersed. It is low-tech. That is hard to find. We’re up for it.

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