Earlier this month, FBI Director James Comey spoke at Georgetown University and acknowledged something that many Americans have been very concerned about recently: that racial bias by law enforcement is a serious problem nationwide. Director Comey's comments come after a particularly turbulent year for American law enforcement, which included the high-profile incidents involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner of New York City.
In his surprisingly blunt speech, Director Comey confirmed that racial biased was a serious concern, but has remained a low priority for law enforcement agencies at both state and federal levels. He went on to explain that to help combat these issues, significant gaps in law enforcement reporting data need to be addressed.
Answering a student question, Director Comey remarked "It's ridiculous that I can't tell you how many people have been shot by the police in this country."
To many, Director Comey's candor is refreshing and long overdue. Not only do these biases affect policing and arrest policies, but also our criminal justice system. Statistics show that cases involving minorities are more likely to be fraught with bias, and often include such issues as:
- Weak or lacking probable cause
- "Trumped up" or exaggerated charges
- Excessive force
- Unnecessary detainment
- Police harassment/brutality
Not only do these problematic arrests congest and complicate our trial system, but they cloud the court's perspective of a legitimate charge. On an even larger scale, they further divide entire communities from the influence and protection of law enforcement and make instances of racial profiling even more likely.
Law Enforcement Still Has a Long Way to Go
While it is a positive sign that a law enforcement leader like Director Comey recognizes obvious faults in our justice system, there is still much work to be done to correct these biases. As the director puts it, too many officers are exposed to embattled minority communities and are worn down by cynicism. Still, he remained hopeful in his talk—as many of us do—later adding that law enforcement has always attracted people who, at least initially, "…want to do good for a living."
If you are facing a criminal charge in which you believe racial profiling played a critical role, then speak with a dedicated West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney now. Call Herman Law, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation.