Before Eric Holder was attorney general, he had experienced his share of humiliating encounters with the police. On one occasion an officer flashed his car lights at Holder, while yelling: “Where are you going? Hold it.” Holder was only heading to a movie in a well-to-do Washington, D.C. suburb. While speaking to a group of concerned citizens in Ferguson, Mo., Holder shared that during a routine traffic stop, his car was searched. Afterward he drove away feeling “angry and upset.”
So it comes as no surprise that Holder has decided to hold meetings in five U.S cities as part of the Justice Department’s “Building Community Trust” initiative. The meetings are designed to bring law enforcement, local officials, community, student and faith leaders together to brainstorm about improving relationships between law enforcement and the general public, especially people of color.
This new agenda, as stated in a release from the Department of Justice is in-line with President Obama’s national call to foster strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect and serve, Obama has proposed a three-year, $263 million investment package designed to increase police officers’ use of body worn cameras.This funding initiative will assist in the purchase of 50,000 body worn cameras, a concept that has been received positively by some. Obama’s memo has also recommended expanding training for law enforcement agencies and adding more resources for police department reforms.
Holder’s first stop was on Dec. 3, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—where Martin Luther King, Jr., was baptized as a young boy and also preached.
“In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement. This will institute rigorous new standards— and robust safeguards—to help end racial profiling, once and for all,” Holder said.
That same evening, a grand jury in Staten Island NY decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who allegedly was selling loose cigarettes on the street. The decision sparked an army of protestors at various sites throughout New York City, representing many ethnic groups who marched, halted traffic and refused to move while chanting Garner’s final words: “I can’t breathe.”
In Cleveland today, the Justice Department and city of Cleveland agreed to reform the city’s division of police after finding a pattern or practice of excessive force, according to media reports. Holder is also expected to visit Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Oakland in the coming weeks.