Sep 25, 2015
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Courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department, what follows are U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s remarks from Friday afternoon’s community policing forum in Richmond City Council Chambers:

“Thank you, U.S. Attorney [Brian] Stretch, for that kind introduction and for your years of service and sacrifice on behalf of the people of California’s Northern District.  I also want to thank Mayor [Tom] Butt and Chief of Police [Chris] Magnus for their leadership here in Richmond.  And I’d like to thank all of you for joining us today.  It’s an honor to be here with so many law enforcement officers, faith leaders, advocates, youth representatives and community officials as we seek to strengthen relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve.

That objective is a vital priority – for the Department of Justice and for me personally.  Particularly over the last year, we have all seen how relationships between communities and law enforcement can grow strained and  how longstanding, deeply-rooted tensions can erupt – making it difficult for conscientious officers to perform their critical responsibilities effectively and  challenging the ability of residents – particularly in communities of color that have been impacted and shaped by a long and painful history of discrimination – to feel safe and protected in their own neighborhoods.  That’s why, over the last few months, I have been meeting with community leaders and law enforcement officials to further ongoing discussions about how we can create stronger, safer, more united communities.  In the past few months, I’ve visited Cincinnati, Ohio; Birmingham, Alabama; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; East Haven, Connecticut; and – just yesterday – Seattle, Washington, as part of a six-city tour to hold roundtable discussions on community policing and to highlight some of the most exciting and promising work being done by residents and officers together.

I am delighted to be here in Richmond today to talk about your innovative and exciting work.  Through programs like the RYSE Center that I was able to visit earlier today, which provides access to trauma-informed care for young people exposed to violence and initiatives like the Safe Return Project and Operation Ceasefire, which work to steer people away from criminal activity and towards job training, education and employment programs, you are demonstrating the value of a holistic, comprehensive approach to public safety.  Through the Richmond Police Department’s community policing model, you are showing how developing positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the residents, businesses, schools, faith organizations and community groups in their jurisdiction can create benefits for the entire community.  And through RPD’s early adoption of body-worn cameras, its participation in the Violence Reduction Network and its focus on combating unconscious bias and promoting alternatives to deadly force in use-of-force situations, you are recognizing and working to solve some of the most important challenges our communities face.

These are important steps forward – and they have come about because of the leadership, the vision and the partnership of the people in this room and the community members you represent.  I want you to know that the Department of Justice is committed to the city of Richmond and to every community across the nation working to rebuild and renew the essential bonds that keep a community healthy and safe.  Just one year ago, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice to promote fair and effective law enforcement.  The Office of Justice Programs, under the leadership of Assistant Attorney General [Karol] Mason, is working hand-in-hand with state and local law enforcement agencies and providing resources and support.  Our Civil Rights Division – led by the outstanding Vanita Gupta, who is joining us today – is partnering with police departments nationwide to ensure constitutional policing.  And the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office – under the fantastic leadership of Ron Davis, who is here with us today – is working to ensure that local law enforcement officers have the support, the resources and the training they need to protect and serve the residents of their communities.  Just a few days ago, I was pleased to announce more than $125 million in new grant awards to expand our Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance; to support a new initiative through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that creates and sustain positive relationships between officers and the young people in their communities; and to support hiring and retaining officers through the COPS Office, including $625,000 for five sworn officer positions here in Richmond.

But our commitment doesn’t stop there.  I’m very pleased to announce today that we will be providing an additional nearly $12 million in awards and grants through the COPS Office to advance the kind of community policing measures and recommendations identified by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  These grants include funding for a range of exciting endeavors and opportunities, including national-level initiatives by national law enforcement associations; emerging-issues forums designed to obtain information from the field; targeted technical assistance for communities at risk; long-term strategic efforts that identify potential issues and offer solutions; and innovative and experimental work in community policing – including an award for the San Leandro Police Department, which is working to expand outreach and collect data on the impact of social media engagement.  These new investments build on the work we are already doing to ensure officers can do their jobs fairly, faithfully and effectively and that residents can be protected, respected and heard.

Of course, I recognize that the progress we envision won’t happen overnight.  It will take time and commitment, collaboration and hard work.  But from what I have seen in Richmond today and from all that I have observed in the cities I have visited on this tour, I am more confident than ever that positive change is possible when we join together to build new foundations of trust, respect and  mutual understanding.  What makes me certain is the conversations I have had with people like all of you.  From faith leaders and public officials; from law enforcement officers and the people they serve, I have heard the same refrain: “I love my city and I want to make it better.”

I want you to know that the Department of Justice – and I personally – will continue to stand with you and with every community around the nation that is engaged in this vital work.  Thank you all, once again, for your partnership, your leadership and your dedication to the future of this city and this country.  I’m excited to speak with you today.  And I look forward to working with all of you in the days and months ahead.”

The photo used in this story was posted on social media by Mayor Tom Butt


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.