Given his perceived influence in the presidential election, FBI Director James Comey — the man responsible for communicating with the public concerning then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — has become a polarizing figure.
Comey addressed his part in the election season’s drama during an hour-long meeting at the FBI Headquarters in Phoenix, Feb. 1.
“He spoke to this topic right away before taking questions,” Cottonwood Chief of Police Steve Gesell stated. Gesell attended the question-and-answer session along with approximately 50 state police chiefs and law enforcement leaders, including city of Sedona Police Chief David McGill.
“[Comey] indicated he was faced with a situation in which he had a decision to conceal or reveal,” Gesell added. “Following his testimony to Congress weeks before outlining the FBI’s probe into Clinton’s emails, he felt he could not authorize what was deemed as a large-scale investigation into the data discovered on U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop without transparency.
“I interpreted his message as saying he would have done more harm to the FBI’s credibility by attempting to conceal the information, knowing it would leak or eventually become known. It’s arguably indisputable he was a hero and a villain both camps within a very short time frame by virtue of his actions. Hopefully, that should give people perspective to consider the position this man was in regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum.”
Gesell came prepared with his own questions for Comey, asking about how “the perception that advancing ideology had superseded public safety interests in our country’s justice system to include the U.S. Department of Justice — something that, if reality, should be extremely alarming to anyone.”
According to Gesell, policing is by its nature intended to be apolitical: “Society should demand the police remain unsullied by political motive.” Regardless, he added that law enforcement has been under increasing scrutiny and critique during the last several years, making it a challenge for law enforcement leaders to operate to the highest standards. Acting within the bounds of political correctness, Gesell said, can have a major impact for police departments.
“Director Comey’s visit is in some ways a reaffirmation to many of us that we are still a country bound by laws and that, despite political agendas, there are people that are focused on remaining grounded to common principals that have contributed to the fabric of this great country,” Gesell said. “His level of candor in the highest echelon of public visibility is invigorating to many in policing.
“State, local and federal law enforcement must rely on each other to achieve our greatest potential to do our part in protecting our citizens. Director Comey gets that, and it is his policy to connect with state and local officials when visiting his agency’s field offices in each state. I, like many of my colleagues, can identify with being considered a hero or villain by different groups for the same act.”
According to Gesell, Comey claimed to have seen “no data that supports the blanket racist narrative attributed to the police” during two high-profile cases of the last few months. Nonetheless, Gesell stated that the national media have given such commentary from Comey little coverage.