At a Justice Department ceremony in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech where he declared that improvements must be made to not only improve police officers’ safety, but steps must also be taken to rebuild the community’s trust in law enforcement through transparency.
“The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” the Attorney General said in his remarks. “This strikes many – including me – as unacceptable. Fixing this is an idea that we should all be able to unite behind.”
In the wake of recent developments between police officers and communities of color, where unarmed black men and children have been killed by police, including incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y. and Cleveland, Ohio, a collective outrage has been sparked calling for an end to police overreach and brutality. These national demonstrations have taken on an impassioned tone, and in light of the high profile murder of two New York City police officers in December, more police feel threatened.
The Attorney General has asked that better reporting of data on both sides of the issue be made available. As it stands now, reporting by localities on both uses of force by police and officer deaths is inadequate in its current state.
Federal authorities publish yearly figures on the number of homicides they deem as justifiable by law enforcement. These same entities also share numbers on how many police officers are killed or assaulted in the respective regions. The reporting, however, is not a mandatory so many police departments do not provide numbers. Holder is asking that these departments get involved in providing accurate numbers.
From Attorney General Holder’s speech:
“This afternoon, I’ll be traveling to Philadelphia to convene the latest in a series of roundtable discussions – with law enforcement leaders, elected officials, community members, young people, and civil rights advocates – in order to keep advancing this dialogue. Over the course of my travels throughout the country, I’ve had the chance to discuss these critical issues with Americans of all ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and walks of life – from Atlanta to Cleveland; from Memphis to Chicago.
“I’ve heard from police officers, protesters, faith leaders, and concerned citizens. On many occasions, I have been deeply moved by the stories and perspectives I’ve heard – from parents hoping to secure brighter and safer futures for their children; from passionate young people becoming engaged in our national debate; from police officers valiantly putting their lives on the line to make our neighborhoods just a little bit safer.
“Through all of these interactions, I have been struck not by the differences that have emerged, but by the remarkable commonalities. By the desire for peace, for safety, and for justice that drives everyone who’s engaged in this discussion. And by the shared vision of a better tomorrow, and a more secure and inclusive future, that unites all Americans.
“Let me be clear: none of these goals are in tension. None of our aims are in conflict. And so it is incumbent upon all of us to protect both the safety of our police officers and the rights and wellbeing of all of our citizens.
Read Attorney General Holder’s remarks in full here.