FBI Director: viral videos make cops afraid to do their jobs

FBI Director James Comey told reporters that "viral video effect" (which is his latest term for what used to be called the "Ferguson effect") is responsible for increased violent crime in some US cities, in that police are scared to do their jobs because they might end up on Youtube in an unflattering video.

Comey says he's seen secret reports indicating that Chicago, Las Vegas and some other US cities have experienced surges in violent crime, and that anaedoctal evidence from officers has convinced him that it's because cameraphones have made the police too timid for effective policing. He didn't cite any statistics to that effect.

The campaign to free the police from accountability is just one of the controversial projects that pits Comey against the White House — another being the war on effective cryptography. Last year, when Comey made similar remarks, the White House "distanced itself" from his position.

Also dissenting from Comey's position is the National Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 330,000 rank and file police officers. The group's executive director, James O Pasco Jr, dismissed Comey, saying, "He ought to stick to what he knows," and "He's basically saying that police officers are afraid to do their jobs with absolutely no proof."

Asked about his past views on the "Ferguson effect" as a possible explanation, Mr. Comey said he rejected that particular term, but added that he continued to hear from police officials in private conversations that "lots and lots of police officers" are pulling back from aggressive confrontations with the public because of viral videos.

He said that the phenomenon "could well be an important factor in this."

F.B.I. Director Says 'Viral Video Effect' Blunts Police Work
[Eric Lichtblau/NYT]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)