CINCINNATI (AP) — The nation’s new top law enforcement official said Tuesday that mistrust between communities and law enforcement is “the issue of our times,” as she visited Cincinnati to hear about reforms after racial strife there more than a decade ago.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch began a six-city tour in the Ohio city, which was rocked in 2001 by riots triggered by a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man. In the aftermath, the city increased police training and citizen feedback, revised policies to reduce use of deadly force, and focused on community-oriented policing under a collaborative agreement with the police union and American Civil Liberties Union.
“The efforts in Cincinnati can be a model for other cities,” Lynch said at a discussion session with dozens of city officials, law enforcement officers and community leaders.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said officers try to be engaged with the city’s youths and help build them up.
“We believe here that we have to deal with root causation of crime, and criminality, and not just try to arrest our way out of crime,” he said.
After violent turmoil following deaths in cities including Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, the police-community issue is in the national forefront, Lynch said.
“We have to look at it from every angle,” she said, adding that it’s important to focus not just on problems, but what is working during rebuilding afterward.
She visited an elementary school, where she was pleased with a program in which Cincinnati police officers help mentor students.
Lynch said she hopes to highlight such innovative police efforts in a tour that will also take her to Birmingham, Alabama; Pittsburgh; Richmond, California; Seattle; and East Haven, Connecticut.
A small group of protesters stood outside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center during her visit with signs pointing to local examples of what they say are racial injustice, including the fatal police shooting last August of a young black man in a Wal-Mart store in suburban Dayton.
Police said they thought the air rifle John Crawford III was holding was a real gun.