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St. Louis Police acadmey graduation

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson swears in 27 new police officers for graduation ceremonies at Harris-Stowe State University on Thursday, June 30, 2016. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. • St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson was among police chiefs who met with the FBI director Wednesday in Washington to discuss national crime trends and how the federal government can help local agencies combat crime.

The police chiefs from about 15 cities along with the FBI's special agent in charge from those jurisdictions talked with FBI Director James Comey during a four-hour meeting, Dotson said in an interview afterward. Comey outlined his goals as finding ways that his agency could bring resources to local law enforcement, give a voice to law enforcement about what's going on at the national level and "bridging the gap into the next administration."

The FBI director is appointed for a 10-year term. Comey is three years into his, so he will oversee the agency during the next president's first term.

The chiefs also discussed issues such as how drugs, mainly marijuana and heroin, are driving crime, as well as outcomes from judges. Some police leaders discussed trends involving juveniles being used to carry out illegal activities by older criminals because there is a perception of no consequences, but Dotson said he hasn't experienced that trend here.

"We need additional resources to help with prosecution and to deal with gun issues," Dotson said. "The themes from city to city were the same. By the third city's introduction, you had heard everything because every city is struggling with the same thing right now."

Comey and others in the room also discussed how law enforcement is always a big presence in the communities most affected by crime, but many citizens are apathetic to the issues.

"There was discussion about how the predominance of our victims and suspects are people of color in poverty-stricken areas, but larger America doesn’t deal with that because they are communities they can just drive around and avoid," Dotson said.

Dotson said Comey also renamed the Ferguson Effect during Wednesday's meeting to the "Viral Video Effect," meaning that he believes there are ancillary effects on crime trends when there is rapid release of police use of force footage without context or prompt response from law enforcement.  

"If you're not willing to talk about things that are important in your business, then you shouldn't be in the business," Dotson said. "No longer is it sufficient for law enforcement to say, 'It's an ongoing investigation.'

"We must provide details and context and use social media, and Director Comey said smaller agencies are asking for direction on that."

Dotson said Comey vowed to keep the group updated on the FBI's efforts to combat the national crime spike.

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