FBI Director James Comey said Thursday the nation must not "turn up the music on the car radio and drive around" the conflict between police and racial minorities.
Stepping into the firestorm that erupted after black men were killed during police encounters in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, Comey said police and the communities they protect often don't understand each other.
Constant patrolling of high-crime areas can lead cops on the beat to jump to conclusions based on race, Comey told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., because officers in big cities often work in areas were "a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime" is committed by young men of color.
"The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two young white men on the other side of the street — even in the same clothes — do not," Comey said.
The grandson of a policeman in Yonkers, New York, Comey said he has affection for police.
"When you dial 911, whether you are white or black, the cops come," he said, "whether they are white or black."
But he said people the communities police serve often fail to understand an officer’s challenges.
"They need to see what police see through the windshields of their squad cars, or as they walk down the street. They need to see the risks and dangers law enforcement officers encounter on a typical late-night shift."
Comey also called for better data on officer-involved shootings, including the race of the victims.
"We simply must find ways to see each other more clearly, and part of that must involve collecting and sharing better information about encounters between police and citizens."