In an effort to calm the waters as police-community tensions continue to escalate, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch participated in this year’s annual National Night Out. The nation’s top lawyer visited a park on Detroit, Michigan’s west side to promote and encourage a healthier relationship between police and the communities they serve.
Addressing the intimate group of about 50 community leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement members, Lynch said:
“We cannot build stronger and safer communities in the span of one year, or in the course of one administration. We cannot forge bonds of trust between residents and law enforcement overnight. Progress is hard. It takes time. And as the awful events of the last month have reminded us, it does not follow a straight course. There will always be hardships, heartbreaks and setbacks along the way.”
The Attorney General explained to a gathering of Hispanic and Black journalists that her Detroit visit was the first in a series of nationwide “Justice Forums.” This is done in an effort to provide local stakeholders with the opportunity to examine police-community issues in a manner that ensures they’ll be heard by police.
Building community-police relations has been at the top of Lynch’s agenda since she was sworn in. At nearly the same moment, Freddie Gray was killed in custody of police. After video was released showing Gray being forcefully handled by police, protests broke out in Baltimore.
“Issues choose you,” Lynch said then goes on to explain that in truth DOJ can only intervene in very specific situations. For there to be lasting change, it must come from the local level:
“When the Department of Justice is involved in conversations about police-community relations, we often focus on the role that federal interventions and resources can play in changing the status quo. We are committed to doing as much as we can, but the real work has to happen from the ground up in each community, with the engagement and commitment of local leaders like you.”
Lynch cautions that these forums will only have a lasting impact if the teachers, business owners, church leaders, and those who patrol are all committed to making a difference.