WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday he disagrees with comments from FBI Director James Comey that suggested a connection between changes in police behavior and the homicide spike experienced by major American cities.
In a wide-ranging conversation with reporters, Holder said he believed Comey had made “gutsy” statements about the issues dividing law enforcement and the communities they serve and had spoken “eloquently” on the topic.
But he said he disagreed with Comey’s suggestions, made in a pair of speeches in Chicago over the last week, that police anxiety over cellphone cameras and viral videos partly explains a rise in violent crime.
Comey said that while there are likely several factors contributing to the uptick, police officials have suggested to him that they see “the era of viral videos” as a link and that fear over being recorded by camera has made some officers apprehensive about leaving their squad cars.
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The White House has distanced itself from the remarks, and Holder on Wednesday said he disagreed with that “anecdotal” analysis.
“I don’t think it’s connected to the so-called Ferguson effect,” he said. “I don’t frankly think police are laying down on the job.”
On other topics, Holder said he stood by his 2009 remarks that America remained a “nation of cowards” when it comes to honest discussions on race.
“Talking about racial things, especially given this nation’s history when it comes to racial matters, is a very, very difficult thing to do from both sides,” said Holder, who left the Justice Department this year and now works at a Washington law firm. “And we’ve become quite adept at finding ways not to deal with racial issues, and I think that is to the detriment of our country and our ability to make progress.”
He also said that a recent Justice Department memo stressing the importance of prosecuting corporate employees and executives in some ways codified existing guidance and policy. Though the Justice Department under his watch was seen by critics as not aggressive enough in white-collar cases, Holder said his prosecutors would have brought more cases if the evidence allowed for it.
“The notion that somehow or other, this attorney general — my Justice Department, for lack of a better term — didn’t want to bring cases against individuals is nonsense,” he said. “Do you actually think that these kids, these young lawyers who become prosecutors … wouldn’t want to bring cases like these if they could make them?”
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