U.S. AG Lynch: Feds want to improve cop relations

George Hunter

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday told local and federal law enforcement officials “we’re here to work” on ways to increase trust between citizens and police.

At a press briefing in Wayne State University’s McGregor Memorial Conference Center, Lynch said it’s vital to discuss police-community relations in the wake of “recent tragedies over the last several weeks that have ... awakened pain with so many people.”

Several instances of officer-involved shootings of citizens, along with a spate of cops being shot, has led to “frayed trust” between police and citizens, Lynch said. The briefing was followed by the first in a scheduled series of Justice Forums that will be held nationwide involving law enforcement, officials, clergy and citizens.

“We’re looking for solutions ... as painful as the discussion might be, and as painful of the images we have seen of people losing their lives,” she said. “As painful as the discussion has been, it has allowed us to get to the point where we now realize the depth of the issues.”

Department of Justice spokesman Kevin Lewis told The Detroit News Lynch chose to kick off the series of forums in Detroit because the city police have a good reputation for having strong ties to the community.

Lynch added: “This is an ongoing conversation, and people in Detroit have laid a great foundation for us. This is a perfect place to advance this important conversation ... about difficult issues of community relations with law enforcement, and the frayed trust that we’ve seen. Once we start communicating and talking, we can begin understanding.

“Everyone wants to be seen; everyone wants to be understood; everyone wants to be recognized as somebody who can contribute. That’s why I’m here ... whether your uniform is a business suit, blue jeans or dress blues, we can get this done, and we’re starting in Detroit.”

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, said there is too much “prejudice” by citizens and police.

“How can we deal with these (problems) in a realistic way that gets something done, rather than just ... hurl our belief systems at each other? All of us have to get together. All this ‘I hate the cops’ or ‘the cops are racist’ — we can’t deal with that ... if you have a prejudice against people in law enforcement, who put their lives on the line ... we’re not going to get anywhere.”

While the relationship between police and Detroit citizens is strong, Mayor Mike Duggan said that wasn’t always the case.

“From 2001 to 2003, I was (Wayne County prosecutor). That was the time the Justice Department put the Detroit Police Department under a consent judgment. Detroit police were engaged in a practice where they arrested every (homicide) witness in the hopes of getting them to talk. It was a major part of what caused the Justice Department to come in. We had officer-involved shootings at rates far in excess of the national average

“I went to the private sector for about 10 years, and when I came back as mayor ... I was struck by how the attitudes had changed. If you look at what you did on that consent agreement ... the use of force policies (have improved). I realized how far we’ve come.”

Police Chief James Craig said he saw examples of good and bad policing during his years on the Los Angeles police department.

“I learned the bad ... talk about Rodney King. The LAPD paid a dear price because of (the way they dealt with citizens).

“The key is trust, trust, trust. Trust is the glue. Gaining trust is not talking to a community; it’s working with the community. These things are not magical.”


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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN