On Monday evening, Attorney General Eric Holder told activists and law enforcement officials in Atlanta that Ferguson presents an opportunity to deal with issues like racial injustice and the perception that police treat minorities unfairly before announcing that new federal standards against racial profiling are on the way.
“This presents this nation with, I think, a unique opportunity,” Holder said, according to CNN. “And I think it’s incumbent on all of us to seize this opportunity to deal with issues that for too long have been ignored.”
Holder kicked off the first of a series of community forums on Ferguson at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and said he will, in the coming days, “announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards–and robust safeguards–to help end racial profiling, once and for all.”
“This new guidance will codify our commitment to the very highest standards of fair and effective policing,” Holder said.
Holder was reportedly heckled at the event but told the hecklers that, “I ain’t mad atcha, all right?”
“There will be a tendency on the part of some to condemn what we just saw, but we shouldn’t,” Holder reportedly said. “What we saw there was a genuine expression of concern and involvement. And it is through that level of involvement, that level of concern and I hope a level of perseverance and commitment that change ultimately will come.”
Earlier on Monday, President Barack Obama had several meetings at the White House with community activists, academics, and law enforcement officials and called for a “sustained conversation” about Ferguson in “every region in the country” so that Ferguson does not fade into the background. Obama announced that Holder, who said that America is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race, will be “working in parallel” with the Ferguson task force that Obama commissioned. Obama also announced that he will ask Congress for reportedly $75 million over the next three years for things like on-body cameras for police officers and to sign an executive order to make sure that we’re “not building a militarized culture inside our local law enforcement.”
Obama also acknowledged the difficult jobs police officers have. He quoted Holder, who once said that “police officers have the right to come home.”
“And if they’re in dangerous circumstances, we have to be able to put ourselves in their shoes and recognize that they do have a tough job,” Obama said.
Though a grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Holder has kept open the federal civil rights investigation. At the White House on Monday, Obama said, “when I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they’ve done everything right.”
“As I said last week in the wake of the grand jury decision, I think Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis or that area, and is not unique to our time, and that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color,” Obama said. “The sense that in a country where one of our basic principles, perhaps the most important principle, is equality under the law, that too many individuals, particularly young people of color, do not feel as if they are being treated fairly.”