Stockton Police Part Of Department Of Justice Program To Improve Trust With …
Attorney General Reacts to Police Shootings in Ferguson.
The Department of Justice is taking note, naming Stockton one of six cities that will be part of a multimillion-dollar national initiative to improve police trust.The Justice Department will help fight crime while it tries to strengthen the bonds between police and residents of six ethnically diverse cities, including Stockton, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas, under a new program incited by the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo.WASHINGTON — Six cities will participate in a federal pilot program aimed at reducing racial bias and improving ties between law enforcement and communities, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.
The selected cities will receive high-powered technical, research and training assistance designed to “enhance procedural justice, reduce bias and support reconciliation,” according to officials who rolled out the program’s details Thursday. The announcement of their selection came six months after Holder revealed the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting last August. Holder said the shooting of the officers was ‘disgusting and cowardly’ and called the perpetrator — who is still at large — a ‘punk.’ (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) “Thank you all for being here this afternoon. As part of the $4.75 million project, researchers will study data and conduct interviews to develop plans for curbing bias and strategies for building trust between residents and law enforcement. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others at the hands of police has aggravated tensions in many regions of the country, with civil rights advocates claiming that police forces are becoming too totalitarian in their approaches.
The Stockton Police Department has recently come under fire for its use of force in the bank robbery hostage crisis, which ended in the death of a 41-year-old hostage. Attorney Wagner. “Stockton is committed to building and maintaining trust with its community, and ensuring that the difficulties experienced elsewhere do not occur here.”
The department last week cleared the officer, Darren Wilson, of criminal civil rights charges in that shooting but also released a scathing report that detailed a slew of discriminatory policing practices in Ferguson and a profit-driven criminal justice system. The other cities in the pilot program are Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Gary, Ind., and Birmingham, Ala. “This study will be a valuable tool to open the discussion on equitable treatment in major cities,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a statement, calling the program “a tool to strengthen our partnership with the justice system and to continue building relationships in the community.” Crime afflicts each selected city, though to varying degrees. You know, seeing this attack last night turned my stomach—because in the week since the Justice Department released its pattern-and-practice report on Ferguson, we have begun to see really important signs of progress. Fort Worth recorded 587 violent crimes per 100,000 residents that same year. “We do rank quite high, especially in the area of violent crime,” Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones acknowledged in an interview Thursday, “but we see the violent crime rate dropping.” Forty percent of Stockton’s residents are Hispanic, 21 percent are Asian and 12 percent are African-American. They were among 21 health care professionals in Tarrant County recognized by the Fort Worth Business Press for their excellence in the medical community, quality of service, and demonstration of exceptional commitment to the health and well-being of residents.
Jones said Justice Department officials “reached out” to the Stockton department to consider participating in the national initiative; in part, he said, because local officials already have tried innovations such as data-driven policing. One year ago, the Obama Administration launched the groundbreaking My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which seeks to create opportunities for all young people in this country to improve their lives and reach their full potential—no matter who they are or where they live. Through the committed work of Department leaders like Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason of the Office of Justice Programs—who is here with us today—and with the partnership of Department components including the COPS Office, the Civil Rights Division, the Community Relations Service and the Office on Violence Against Women, we are redoubling our commitment to restoring faith in the integrity of law enforcement wherever that faith has been eroded. By helping to develop programs that serve their own diverse experiences, these cities will stand on the leading edge of our effort to confront pressing issues in communities across the country.
Second, we have launched a new online resource, available at trustandjustice.org, which will advance cutting-edge research and information about best practices and trust-building policy. I have enormous respect for the vital role that they play in all of America’s communities – and for the sacrifices that they and their families are too often called to make on behalf of their country. The dangers they face have been made clear recently not only with the attacks we experienced last night, but also with the killing of Officer Robert Wilson III in Philadelphia last week and with the tragic loss of Deputy U.S.
These devastating incidents serve as a reminder that our law enforcement officers perform a job that is extremely serious, deeply heroic, and deserving of our most emphatic support. There should be no situation in which an officer’s life is put in jeopardy because of concerns that by appropriately defending themselves, they might be viewed as committing a crime. That is why the Justice Department’s discussions about these matters have centered on proven, common-sense and evidence-based collaborative measures that protect our citizens, strengthen our neighborhoods, and keep our officers safe.
But in conversations like this one—with law enforcement, civil rights, youth and community leaders–I have been struck not by our divisions, but by our common interest in creating the more just society that all Americans deserve.
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