Former FBI Director James Comey conducted his second lecture series at Howard University. He returned to Howard’s campus on Nov. 17 to speak about law enforcement in Birmingham, Ala. The panel featured three speakers from Birmingham, and Comey served as the moderator. The panelists were Birmingham talk-show host Dana Woodruff, Chief of Birmingham Police A.C. Roper and President and CEO of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Andrea Taylor. The event consisted of a panel discussion and was followed by a Question and Answer session.

Comey delivered his first lecture at Howard on Oct. 25. The series included conversations on law enforcement and race. In August, Howard University announced its appointment of former FBI director James Comey as the Endowed Chair in Public Policy. Later, he received a rough reception at Howard’s 2017 opening convocation on Sept. 22.

Birmingham, Ala. has experienced a long history of racial tension. In 1963, a local church was bombed as an act of white supremacy, resulting in the deaths of four black girls. Recently, the city has tried to take measures to address racial disparities. Chief Roper discussed the steps the police department is taking to be more accountable and to serve their community better. He stated that crime rates were declining in 2014 and 2015; however, in 2016 the rates began to increase again.

In 2016, James Comey used the term “viral video effect” to describe the recent surge videos of police shootings becoming viral via social media. This term caused major controversy, with many members of the black community feeling like the term was used in a negative way. Comey’s comments fueled distaste among Howard student’s at Comey’s new relationship with the University.

During the Q&A portion of the event, a student asked about the panelists’ thoughts on Comey using the term “Ferguson effect.” Chief Roper responded to the question by saying young kids want to be police officers and fireman up until about fourth or fifth grade. After this point, their mindset shifts and they feel they’re at risk in their communities, thus causing the “Ferguson effect.”

After the event, there was an informal continuation of the Q&A. Freshman Faduma Sharif attended the event and said, “I felt like Comey was trying to understand the other side, yet he refused to listen to the other side.” Sharif said he spoke in a condescending way to the students.

The lecture series with Comey will continue throughout Spring 2018.

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