Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to use Michael Brown’s death and the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, to push for more police diversity and even combat unintentional “disparate treatment under the law” of minorities.
In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ahead of his arrival in Ferguson on Wednesday, Holder called for “an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson” because “they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice” and “interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.”
After pledging that the Department of Justice’s “investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent,” Holder vowed to “work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding – and robust action – aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve.”
He said though he understands that police officers often have to make “split-second decisions,” good policing requires “that force be used in appropriate ways.”
“Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended,” he said. “And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”
Holder said that “good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile.”
“Constructive dialogue should continue – but it must also be converted into concrete action. And it is painfully clear, in cities and circumstances across our great nation, that more progress, more dialogue, and more action is needed,” he wrote.
Holder mentioned that he will be in Ferguson to be briefed on the investigation, adding that he “will meet personally with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive detailed briefings on the status of this case.”
He also said that the “Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told.”
President Barack Obama announced on Monday that Holder would head to Ferguson on Wednesday, and Holder said that the investigation into Brown’s death “will take time to complete.” He said “approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division’s most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis,” and “hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter.” He noted that at his discretion, “a team of federal medical examiners conducted an independent autopsy” of Brown’s body on Monday.