U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement Dec. 2, after a St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old African-American teenager Michael Brown, and President Barack Obama subsequently called on the country to seize this moment as an opportunity for change.
“Following Michael Brown’s tragic death, millions of people across the nation and around the world have focused their attention on unfolding events in Ferguson, both grieving together and making their voices heard.
In recent days, many have been captivated by ongoing developments, anguished emotions, peaceful protests — and, too often, deeply unfortunate images of unnecessary destruction. And this tragic incident has sparked a necessary, national conversation about the need to ensure trust and build strong relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.
Events in Ferguson have revealed a deep distrust between a community and its police force. But this reality is not limited to one location. Other communities around this country know this struggle all too well. And it’s abundantly clear that every single one of us has a role to play in tackling this problem together, as a nation — to identify those things that bind us, and to be honest with one another about the things that continue to divide us.
In August, President Obama ordered a review of federal funding and programs that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. Yesterday, the Administration released that review’s findings — and announced key next steps to strengthen the trust in and effectiveness of the policing of our communities.
Here are the next steps we’re taking:
• Creating a new task force to promote the expansion of 21st century community-oriented policing.
• Reforming how the federal government equips local law enforcement, particularly with military-style equipment.
• Advancing the use of body-worn cameras and promoting proven community policing initiatives.
I know this has been a difficult time for people in Ferguson, and for many others across the country. It will take time for things to get better. But as I assured Ferguson residents during my visit there, in August, the Obama administration is firmly committed to making the progress we need — and that all of our citizens deserve.
The changes that the President announced yesterday are exactly the sorts of programmatic steps that will bring the right people together to engage in a constructive, national conversation — so we can build trust, address persistent concerns, and protect public safety while respecting the rights of every American.
Last Tuesday, addressing the public, the President said, “[to] those who are prepared to work constructively, your President will work with you.” I am committed to answering the President’s call to see this through — as are the men and women of the United States Department of Justice.
Eric H. Holder, Jr.