In the wake of the deadly shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, Attorney General Eric Holder is facing demands to make widespread changes to police procedures including the appointment of a "police czar," The Hill reported.
But a leading national police official has warned that the federal government would be overreaching by mandating local law enforcement methods from Washington, D.C.
Holder is being pressed by civil rights activists and community leaders to find solutions to the racial and social issues that engulfed Ferguson following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Although the Obama administration is set to review the use of military equipment by police departments across the country, civil rights activists and community leaders have called on the Justice Department for changes in other police practices.
"We’re at our zero moment as a nation," Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, a community-empowerment group, said, according to The Hill. "If we continue to let this go unaddressed, we’re going to have Fergusons springing up all across the country."
The activists are calling on Holder to order racial bias training for police departments nationwide, while also urging the attorney general to consider having a "police czar" to stamp out "egregious" actions by local law enforcement officials.
"I think he understands it. I do think that he has a desire to address it," said Rockeymoore. "We are hopeful that he takes these recommendations in stride, and we want to let him know that we’re on hand to support him."
To make their case for changes in police operations, civil rights groups including the NAACP held a rally on Wednesday outside the Justice Department building in Washington.
Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, has ordered a full investigation into Brown’s shooting by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, and its aftermath. When riots broke out in Ferguson, heavily armed police were criticized for using military equipment and tear gas to quash the protests.
The Center for Global Policy Solutions said in a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday that "systemic racial bias" was partly to blame for Brown’s shooting, The Hill reported.
The group said that local law enforcement agencies should be required to hire officers who are similar in diversity as the communities they represent, which was a veiled reference to the predominantly white police force in the mainly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson
The letter has been backed by Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, according to The Hill.
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff stepped up the pressure Wednesday on Holder by urging the Justice Department to pay for body cameras for officers so that they can record police actions during critical cases.
But Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said he was concerned about having the government make regulations on police procedures nationwide.
"With all due respect to the federal government, I think it’s a bad idea," he told The Hill. "Anytime the federal government, even with good intentions, steps in and says, 'We know what’s best for your community,' that’s a red flag."
Johnson said the racial bias training could bring out its own set of problems. "Sometimes teachers may have their own agenda," he said. "I don’t think you want to have an educator with a preconceived notion of, 'Cops are racists, they need to be reformed.'"
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