Guest column: FBI director claims viral videos increase crime

Adri Montes

Federal Bureau of Investigation director, James Comey, recently said at the University of Chicago Law School that the “era of viral videos” is largely to blame for recent spikes in violent crime across major U.S. cities. Comey claims, this “YouTube effect” has rendered police officers unable to effectively perform their duties out of fear that they will be portrayed as dangerous racists on camera.

Comey stated there could be many other reasons as to why violent crime has increased but emphasized the presence of constant cellphone video coverage from civilians seemed most probable. Comey suggested that as a result of constant scrutiny from the public, officers feel under siege and are reluctant to leave their patrol cars, letting violent criminals roam the streets to ruin communities.

Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel echoes Comey’s remarks saying recent scrutiny against the police has intimidated officers and negatively impacted law enforcement. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded in a briefing saying there’s no evidence supporting Comey’s statements.

To some, Comey’s statements fuel the ongoing division between the police and their communities, specifically the black community, resulting in cautious and bias behavior on both ends. Furthermore, these divisions often force Americans to pick between defending the police or social movements like Black Lives Matter, which is not very helpful in regards to constructive conversations about police brutality against predominantly unarmed black men.

In Cleveland, violent crimes have increased from 2014, but experts attribute causes to increases in heroin trade, easy access to firearms, poverty and lack of opportunity. Mark Singer, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, and others point out that national homicide statistics have crept so low since the 1990s that recent upticks seem more reasonable than totals continuing to fall.

The recent incident in South Carolina regarding a deputy who was filmed forcibly removing a 16-year-old student from her chair and throwing her across a classroom resulted in a Richland County Sheriff firing his deputy for excessive force. Unlike Comey, who thinks videos such as these are harmful to police officers, Sheriff Leon Lott encourages cellphone recordings and citizens policing the police.  

Constant cellphone recordings of police are certainly changing how police behave in public and perhaps this is more beneficial than detrimental. There is no data at the moment that suggests video coverage is harmful to how effective police officers perform their duties or keep violent crime low. In fact, the only thing video coverage does is hold police officers accountable in instances regarding police brutality against unarmed civilians, something Comey should embrace.

Contact Adri Montes at [email protected].