FBI director blames 'the era of viral videos' for spike in violent crime

FBI Director James Comey told a forum at the University of Chicago Law School that one of the reasons for the spike in homicides and other violent crime in America's big city is due to the proliferation of "viral videos" showing police misconduct.

ABC News:

He said while there likely are multiple factors behind the spike in violence in cities, including Chicago, officers and others nationwide have told him they see "the era of viral videos" as a link.

FBI Director James Comey told a forum at the University of Chicago Law School that one of the reasons for the spike in homicides and other violent crime in America's big city is due to the proliferation of "viral videos" showing police misconduct.

ABC News:

He said while there likely are multiple factors behind the spike in violence in cities, including Chicago, officers and others nationwide have told him they see "the era of viral videos" as a link.

"I don't know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year, and that wind is surely changing behavior," Comey said.

He added that some of the behavioral change in police officers has been for the good "as we continue to have important discussions about police conduct and de-escalation and the use of deadly force."

Comey likened the strain between law enforcement and local communities to two lines diverging, saying repeatedly that authorities must continue to work at improving their relationships with citizens. But he added: "I actually feel the lines continuing to arc away from each other, incident by incident, video by video."

Most of the country's 50 largest cities have seen an increase in shootings and killings, he said, citing Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas and others. In Washington, D.C., he said homicides are up more than 20 percent. And he added that Baltimore is averaging more than one homicide a day — a rate higher than New York City, which has 13 times the people.

"Why is it happening ... all over and all of a sudden?" he asked. "I've heard a lot of theories — reasonable theories."

He suggested other factors, including the availability of cheaper heroin, guns getting into the wrong hands for wrongdoing, and street gangs becoming smaller and more territorial.

But he said his conversations with officers often come back to cellphones. He said they describe encounters with young people and their cellphone cameras "taunting" them "the moment they get out of their cars."

"They told me, 'We feel like we're under siege and we don't feel much like getting out of our cars,'" Comey said.

I don't want to totally undermine the director's analysis, because on one level, he's right.  But perhaps those officers he talked to didn't want to sound racist or paranoid when they might have spoken about the primary reason for their unease and it's not "viral videos."

There has been a dramatic increase in the level of permissiveness when it comes to violence against police officers compared to a year or two ago.  And stoking the fires of rage against the police have been Black Lives Matter activists and the politicians who enable them.  I can't see how you can deny this, given the increase in attacks on police officers and the failure of civic leaders to have their backs.

Openly taunting police is a symptom of this increase in permissiveness.  Disrespecting police officers is another.  But cops who hesitate to get out of their patrol cars are far more concerned about someone taking a potshot at them than they are worried about a civilian recording their confrontation with lawbreakers on their cell phones. 

The president and the Department of Justice could speak out strongly, unequivocally in support of police.  But they're more inclined to sow the seeds of racial discord and excuse the threats of violence against the cops by activists.