Attorney General on Community Policing and Restoring Trust

Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch Testifies At Senate Judiciary Committee Nomination Hearing

The following remarks were delivered on Monday by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch at Community Policing Roundtable in Pittsburgh

Restoring trust where it has eroded is one of my top priorities as Attorney General.  That’s why I am convening roundtable discussions like this one as part of a six-city community policing tour to highlight some of the most promising work that citizens and law enforcement are doing around the nation.  In Birmingham, Alabama, I heard from young people whose new friendships with officers had profoundly and positively changed their perceptions of the men and women who wear the badge.  In Cincinnati, Ohio, I heard from civic and public safety leaders who described how their collaboration had transformed their city into a more welcoming and inclusive place.  And in East Haven, Connecticut, just three years after the Justice Department found that police officers routinely used excessive force and discriminatory tactics against Latinos, residents and officers alike now report a fundamentally different reality.  In each of those cities, I heard a common theme: that when police and community members unite to construct new foundations of trust, respect and mutual understanding, cities can make extraordinary progress.

I’m here in Pittsburgh today because this community has demonstrated the determination and the ability to find and implement effective solutions to the kinds of challenges we have seen across the country.  Through programs like Cops and Kids and initiatives like the Community Police Relations Group, you are working to close the rifts that divide us, restore the trust that unites us and forge the new and brighter path forward that will serve the people of Pittsburgh for years to come.  U.S. Attorney [David] Hickton and Chief [Cameron] McLay have provided vital and conscientious leadership in these initiatives, ensuring that law enforcement officers not only protect and serve the neighborhoods in their jurisdiction, but also become an integral part of those communities as mentors, teachers and friends.

I want you to know that the Department of Justice is committed to partnering with every community that is working to identify and implement strategies to advance public safety, strengthen relationships and foster enduring trust and respect.  We’re promoting the capacity of local jurisdictions with Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds; establishing projects like the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program to bolster safety and accountability; and helping precincts and districts throughout the country to hire or retain officers through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – led by Director Ron Davis, who I’m pleased to have with us here today.  Just last year, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice in six pilot cities, including Pittsburgh, in order to develop and implement a wide-ranging new approach to training, policy development and research geared toward advancing procedural justice, promoting racial reconciliation and eliminating implicit biases.

Going forward, the Justice Department will continue to provide resources, guidance and training to Pittsburgh, including an on-site coordinator who will work with Chief [Cameron] McLay on the National Initiative and its related projects by conducting outreach, gathering feedbackand working closely with residents.  Next month, the National Initiative team, through the work of the Office of Justice Programs under the leadership of Assistant Attorney General [Karol] Mason, who I’m also delighted to have here with us here today, will return to Pittsburgh to conduct surveys and interviews of residents, provide training for law enforcement officers on issues like procedural justice and implicit bias and work with them to incorporate these core concepts into Bureau of Police policies.  And in order to support the National Initiative’s efforts to build trust throughout the criminal justice system, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance will be working with the Center for Court Innovation to assess procedural justice issues in the Allegheny County courts – one of four sites that we have selected.  These are all important and exciting projects and we are hopeful that the progress Pittsburgh will make over the next several years can be a model for other communities around the country.

Of course, that progress won’t happen on its own.  It must be built on the engagement, the commitment and the hard work of everybody in this room.  The issues we face are deeply-rooted and complex, but it is clear – from the work that you have already done and from the dedication you have already shown – that we are headed toward long-awaited change.  We are marching together, arm in arm, at a transformative moment in our nation’s history.  And with the help of committed individuals like all of you, I am not only hopeful, but confident that Pittsburgh, its sister cities and this country can come together to build the stronger nation and the more empowered communities that we all need to thrive.

Thank you, once again, for your partnership, your leadership and your dedication to the future of this city.  I’m excited to speak with you today.  And I look forward to working with all of you in the days and months ahead.

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  1. Frankly

    The issues we face are deeply-rooted and complex

    They are deep-rooted, but not really complex.  They are difficult only because of politics.

    One clear change that we need to pursue…

    The default position for law enforcement in their encounters with the public is ‘If you don’t do as I say, I am going to use force’

    1. We need to retrain cops to make the use of force secondary to using de-escalation techniques.

    2. We need to train kids in grade school how to respond to requests from cops.



    1. Davis Progressive

      i agree on points one and two.  as someone who has taught kids about their rights and what to do if they are pulled over by the police – i think that’s already happening.  the problem i think goes beyond this – well beyond this.  part of the problem comes back to a lack of trust in the system as a whole.  as a lawyer i tell people, most of them young, some of them in the past my clients don’t argue with the police, take the dispute to the system.  but if you don’t trust the system to be fair, that’s hard to learn.  the second problem i think is more fundamental – it’s easy if you are pulled over once and have a bad experience to bite your tongue.  but over and over again, you start to grow tired and weary.  more importantly, one day you are going to have a bad day.  i think sandra bland is a great example – as an activist she probably knew better, but she was in a bad mood, the officer should have backed off but kept pushing and she snapped and then he did.  until you can get into these situations, you are not going to have success heading off this problem.

      1. Frankly

        One day you are going to have a bad day

        Not if you behave in a civil manner.

        I think you and others don’t really understand the stress and tension that would be coiled up within any person having to deal with a probability that they will get hurt or killed on the job by others they have to deal with.   You come up on someone not having a clue what they are like, what they are thinking , what they will do.  And then that person goes off on you.  And then you want to make the excuse that it was “just a bad day.”

        I don’t care how many times you are pulled over, you cannot treat the cops with anger and hostility and expect things to go all peachy.

        Now, if the cops are trained better to de-escalate, maybe Ms. or Mr. hothead suspect can be calmed down before needing to have their hothead put in a headlock.   But #2 above is to teach people that they have no choice but to comply and then complain later.

        It really is a bunch of BS.  What do you think happens with one of the left-loved agencies like the IRS or the EPA goes after you and you decide to not comply in a fit of anger?   What do you think would happen to you?   Of course the recommendation is always to comply and then take legal or other civil actions against the agency if warranted.

    1. tribeUSA

      BP–interesting; I don’t see how the AG can with-hold such evidence, as it is obviously pertinent to the case; hopefully she will be forced to release it and all other pertinent evidence.

      If you watch the TV show COPS, you will notice that it seems to be quite common for many arrested people to hurt themselves physically (at least on a fairly high proportion of the COPS episodes)–commonly, after handcuffing and placing in the car, the suspect may lay on his back and kick the passenger window with his feet–after then removing the suspect from the police car, placing him in leg restraints, and then putting him back in the car, the suspect will proceed to bang his head against the passenger side window. On COPS shows, I’ve noticed they show more white arrestees than blacks doing this; these white guys (or gals) typically look to be hopped up on meth; some of the head-banging against the window looks/sounds pretty vigorous, to the point where they could be giving themselves concussions (maybe need to put helmets on arrestees like this!) Whether Grey was in headbanging mode and tried to hurt himself; who knows; we’ll see what evidence comes up in the trial.

  2. Tia Will


    From your own link, the Attorney General’s office “has  been accused of ” withholding evidence….not has been proven or has admitted to doing so. This is an allegation at this point, not a fact.

      1. Barack Palin

        Not according to what his dad said.

        Harris Sr. said his son went to school with Michael Brown, the black teen whose death sparked protests against police shootings and racial inequality. He told The Washington Postthat his son was on a date at a remembrance for Brown when shooting broke out and that his son didn’t have a gun.
        “My son wasn’t even armed when he was shot,” Harris tellsThe Washington Post.

        This was another lie that was adding to the riot fervor.

        1. Barack Palin

          Just as “hands up, don’t shoot” turned out to be not creditable.  We’re finding through the facts that the police were a lot more creditable than many of you first thought.

        2. Davis Progressive

          i’m afraid i’m not following you here.  “We’re finding through the facts that the police were a lot more creditable than many of you first thought.”  what incident are you referring to?

        3. Davis Progressive

          i do think you’re misreading the conclusion of the doj investigation: “Federal officials concluded there was no evidence to disprove former officer Darren Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his safety, nor were there reliable witness accounts to establish that Michael Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was shot.”

          the doj investigation didn’t verify or validate his testimony, they simply couldn’t rule it.  part of the problem is the unreliable eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence that is questionable at best.  but of course you want to interpret it as a vindication for wilson, when in fact, it was simply an absence of evidence to prove him wrong.

        4. Barack Palin

          but of course you want to interpret it as a vindication for wilson, when in fact, it was simply an absence of evidence to prove him wrong.

          So DP, if you were wrongly accused of beating your wife, which you knew you were innocent of, and you were exonerated of all charges the same as Wilson was because of unreliable witnesses and questionable forensic evidence would you then say it was simply an absence of evidence to prove you wrong?

        5. Davis Progressive

          there is actually a legal difference between being legally “not guilty” and being factually innocent.  Not guilty means they could not prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, factually innocent means you have actually proven innocence.  Those who are wrongly convicted actually into both categories – those who were wrongly convicted because of legal errors versus those who actually have evidence of innocence.  Wilson falls into the former category not the latter and it’s an important distinction.

  3. tribeUSA

    DP–there are several lines of evidence supporting Wilson’s innocence:

    (1) Eyewitness testimony–from several eyewitnesses that Brown was charging back toward Wilson

    (2) Physical evidence: positions of shell casings, body, and bloodstrains (on street) relative to each other; supporting the statements made by Wilson and other eyewitnesses that Brown had doubled back toward Wilson

    (3) Forensic evidence–all wounds to front of body and arm, none to the back.

    (4) Circumstantial evidence–the recent store robbery (caught on video), physical evidence supporting eyewitness evidence of Brown wrestling Wilson for his gun, etc.–all support a violent and belligerent state of mind of Brown at the time of the incident.

    Taken separately, any of these 4 points might not demonstrate innocence of Wilson (i.e. justification of shooting) beyond a reasonable doubt. Taken together (along with other evidence not listed here), they make a compelling case for innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.


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