By Serena Maria Daniels
DETROIT (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Lorretta Lynch was in Detroit on Wednesday to spur dialogue aimed at mending the “frayed trust” between police and minority communities across the country.
Lynch picked Detroit, whose police department has seen a transformation since a 2003 federal consent decree, to launch a planned nationwide series of “Justice Forums” bringing together local citizens, politicians, social activists, clergy and law enforcement.
The event followed recent tensions along racial lines from the controversial shooting deaths of black men by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, followed by retaliatory ambush killings of eight lawmen in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“This has been a very painful time in our country, and out of this pain, out of this grief can come progress,” Lynch told reporters Wednesday afternoon inside the office of Barbara McQuade, the U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan.
Lynch, the top U.S. law enforcement official, was also joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James Craig.
She pointed to progress made in Detroit, whose population is 80 percent African-American, in building greater respect between citizens and a police department long criticized for heavy-handed crime-fighting tactics and indiscriminate use of force.
Craig said his department was one of the first in the nation to equip its officers with body cameras, among other police reforms.
“This is ongoing work, and the people of Detroit have laid down the foundation for us and the basis for us and now this is the perfect place to advance this important conversation,” Lynch said.
The morning-long forum followed the observation of the annual National Night Out, an event aimed at promoting positive relations between community members and police. Lynch on Tuesday night visited a park in the city’s west side.
She also met with members of the Arab-American and Muslim community in neighboring Dearborn, Michigan.
As an envoy of the Obama administration, Lynch has sought to balance concerns about police abuses, largely against African-Americans, while showing support for law enforcement officers feeling increasingly under siege.
In June, the Justice Department said more than 33,000 federal agents and prosecutors would receive training aimed at preventing unconscious bias from influencing law enforcement decisions.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Bernard Orr)