As New Attorney General, Loretta Lynch Seemingly Deviates From her Predecessor With Work to Develop Rapport With Police

U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch meets with Baltimore police officers this month. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)
U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch meets with Baltimore police officers this month.
(Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

When Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore in the aftermath of last month’s anti-police riots, she made a point of meeting quietly with a dozen officers as they were going out to patrol the still-tense city.

“You have picked a noble profession,” she told the officers, including one who had been injured in the rioting. “Despite how people may want to portray it, you [should] hold on to that every day.”

Nine months earlier, when her predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., traveled to Ferguson, Mo., under similar circumstances, he did not meet with rank-and-file police.

Instead he talked about how he had been profiled by police as a young man in Washington. “I understand that mistrust,” he told community college students.

A month after being sworn in as the first African American female attorney general, Lynch, a former U.S. attorney from Brooklyn, N.Y., appears to be working hard to distinguish herself from her former boss in the eyes of law enforcement.

Her ability to straddle the chasm between police and minority communities may be crucial in the months ahead as she decides whether to prosecute police officers in New York, South Carolina and Baltimore, and reacts to the string of police shootings of young black men.

One early test could come in Cleveland. In December, the Justice Department issued a scathing report on abusive acts that members of the city’s police force directed against suspects, primarily minorities. Federal officials are expected to announce as early as Tuesday that they’ve reached an agreement with Cleveland officials to impose federal monitors on the city to correct such problems. How Lynch handles the case could provide an early indication of what course the new attorney general plans to follow.

As she seeks to correct such problems, Lynch also must win the trust and respect of the law enforcement community she now leads.

“I thought her comments [in Baltimore] were very genuine and showed a deep concern for [the officers’] safety,” said Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

During National Police Week in Washington this month, Lynch delivered the keynote speech at a candlelight vigil for fallen officers and attended a memorial service for peace officers sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Last week, Lynch launched a national “Community Policing Tour” in Cincinnati designed to highlight programs that “strengthen police-community relations and foster mutual trust and respect.”

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SOURCE: L.A. Times – Timothy M. Phelps

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