Congresswoman Barbara Lee welcomed Attorney General Eric Holder to Oakland Thursday for a roundtable discussion around building trust between the community and law enforcement.
The conversation, held in the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building, included U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent and faith and youth leaders.
The roundtable was part of Holder’s nationwide effort to “build trust where it never existed,” he says.
“We cannot squander this opportunity to have the kind of dialogue that – I think – is needed to begin the kind of change we need in this nation,” said Holder.
Holder, whose brother is a retired police officer, recognized the tireless efforts of Oakland police officers.
He also noted the actions the Department of Justice has taken to address police issues – including investing in police body cameras, expanded training in community engagement and creating a new Task Force on 21st Century Policing to look at ways to support effective crime strategies while building public trust.
“The people of this great city deserve an outstanding, world-class police force that works alongside local residents to protect public safety,” he said.
Following the discussion Congresswoman Lee said, “We can all agree that the status quo is unacceptable.”
“We must work together to reform our broken criminal justice system, build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and address systemic and structural racial bias throughout our society,” she said.
Chief Whent shared some of the department’s strategies and public safety efforts including the Ceasefire violence reduction strategy, Procedural Justice Training, and involvement in youth mentoring programs.
Mayor Schaaf said, “The fact that Holder came to our city shows that Oakland is moving ahead on righting the wrongs on police issues.”
She also said, “We need to do more to close that trust gap.”
Schaaf plans to work with 100 youth for 100 days to launch a restorative justice program designed as a listening and engagement tour with young people.
“The Justice Department will continue to rely on your leadership, your expertise, and your unique perspectives to help ensure that we can bridge longstanding divisions between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Holder said.