- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Law enforcement may be less inclined to interact with criminal suspects on account of those interactions routinely ending up online in the form of viral videos, FBI Director James Comey said.

Without offering any empirical evidence, Mr. Comey suggested to reporters gathered at the bureau’s D.C. headquarters Wednesday that an increase in violent crime in some of the country’s largest cities — namely Chicago and Las Vegas — could be a result of what he called a “viral video effect.”

“There’s a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime — the getting out of your car at two in the morning and saying to a group of guys, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” Mr. Comey said to journalists during a question-and-answer session, The New York Times reported.

“What I’m talking about is sort of the viral video effect. … Changes in the way police may be acting and in the way communities may be acting in terms of how much information they share with police could well be at the heart of this or could well be an important factor in this,” the FBI director said, Politico reported. “I think it is the potential effect of marginal pullbacks by lots and lots of police officers that is changing some cities. I continue to hear that privately. … I’ve heard it in lots of conversations privately with police leaders.”

The FBI director in October first suggested that the so-called “Ferguson effect” set in place after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Missouri teenager Michael Brown in 2014 had created a “chill wind” affecting law enforcement.

“I was worried about it last fall,” Mr. Comey said Wednesday. “And I am, in many ways, more worried now. … The people dying are almost entirely black and Latino. I don’t know what the answer is. But, holy cow, do we have a problem.”

Law enforcement officials were quick to condemn Mr. Comey’s remarks, which he admittedly made without being able to offer any statistical evidence.

“He ought to stick to what he knows,” James O. Pasco Jr., executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told The New York Times. “He’s basically saying that police officers are afraid to do their jobs with absolutely no proof.”

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