Attorney General Eric Holder has condemned the unknown assailant who shot two police officers overnight in Ferguson, Mo., as a "punk who was trying to sow discord" and said he hoped the "disgusting and cowardly attack" would not unravel the progress the community is making to restore trust in the police and the municipal courts there.
At a news conference in Washington, Holder announced the latest steps in his campaign to restore trust in law enforcement, including six pilot sites to test strategies for strengthening bonds between citizens and police. Those sites are Birmingham, Ala.; Stockton, Calif.; Gary, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Fort Worth, Texas.
The pilot programs are intended to facilitate racial reconciliation, reduce implicit bias in policing, and affirm the idea of procedural justice — that the way law enforcement officers treat people in everyday interactions is as important as the outcome of those interactions, such as arrests and convictions.
"There's research that suggests that when people feel like they were treated respectfully by the police, that goes a long way towards community trust, regardless of the outcome," said Nancy LaVigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, which will conduct research as part of the federal grant.
Holder, who is likely to retire after six years in office as early as next week, when the Senate votes on his successor, said his efforts on policing in no way were intended to cast all law enforcement officers in a negative light.
"My brother's a retired law enforcement officer and he always tells me that cops have the right to come home at night, you know?" Holder said.
He said authorities in Missouri will have the full support and resources of the federal government as they investigate the shooting near the Ferguson Police Department. The officers who were shot have been released from the hospital.