WASHINGTON – As part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing commitment to strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Birmingham, Ala.; Ft. Worth, Texas; Gary, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Stockton, Calif., to be the first six cities to host pilot sites for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. As part of a larger effort, the National Initiative team will work with each pilot site to assess the police-community relationship as well as develop a detailed site-specific plan that will enhance procedural justice, reduce bias and support reconciliation in communities where trust has been eroded.
“The Department of Justice is committed to using innovative strategies to enhance procedural justice, reduce bias and support reconciliation in communities where trust has been eroded,” said Attorney General Holder. “By helping to develop programs that serve their own diverse experiences and environments, these selected cities will serve on the leading edge of our effort to confront pressing issues in communities around the country.”
"We are always committed to engaging with the community to ensure that we are serving them and hearing their concerns," said United States Attorney Joyce White Vance. "We want to do a good job of listening, so that we can work together to make the community safe. We appreciate the opportunity to be one of the six pilot sites in this initiative, and the recognition from Washington that we are trying to get it right down here," she said.
"We are truly honored that DOJ would select Birmingham as one of six national pilot sites," said Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper. "The mayor and I actually started discussing this initiative several months ago and knew there would be over a hundred cities vying for the limited opportunities.
"We are all aware of the modern day issues and national discussion on policing in America," Roper said. "Although we've worked extremely hard building bridges in our communities, we saw this initiative as an opportunity to strengthen relationships, increase public cooperation, and improve the perception of police legitimacy across our city," he said. "We truly recognize that the Birmingham Police Department cannot be successful without community support and community trust. This three-year project will allow us to serve as a national police model and increase our capacity to serve our citizens."
Attorney General Holder also announced that the Department of Justice is providing additional training and technical assistance to police departments and communities that are not pilot sites. Through the Office of Justice Program’s Diagnostic Center (www.OJPDiagnosticCenter.org), police departments and community groups can request training, peer mentoring, expert consultation and other types of assistance on implicit bias, procedural justice and racial reconciliation. Additionally, the initiative launched a new online clearinghouse that includes up-to-date information about what works to build trust between citizens and law enforcement. The clearinghouse can be found at www.trustandjustice.org.
“Restoring trust where it has eroded is one of the defining public safety challenges of our day,” said Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason of the Office of Justice Programs. “Trust-building is the responsibility of the police and the community, and the National Initiative’s goal is to build the bridge that will define a new era in public safety.”
The Justice Department established the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice as part President Obama’s groundbreaking launch of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which seeks to create opportunities for all young people in this country—regardless of their background—to improve their lives and reach their full potential.
The three-year grant has been awarded to a consortium of national law enforcement experts from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Yale Law School, the Center for Policing Equity at UCLA and the Urban Institute. The initiative is guided by a board of advisors which includes national leaders from law enforcement, academia and faith-based groups, as well as community stakeholders and civil rights advocates. In a holistic approach, the initiative simultaneously addresses the tenets of procedural justice, reducing implicit bias and facilitating racial reconciliation. The initiative complements and is advised by other Justice Department components such as the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office on Violence Against Women, the Civil Rights Division and the Community Relations Service.