- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Under President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder aggressively sought federal oversight on police departments, securing 15 settlements with local law enforcement departments — more than either the previous Bush or Clinton administrations, and in less time.

Upon his departure, Ms. Lynch inherits at least 11 more police related civil rights investigations, including those in North Charleston, South Carolina, where a white officer killed a black man, and in Baltimore, where Freddie Gray died while in police custody, and civil justice advocates and police unions are anxious to see how Ms. Lynch will proceed.

During her confirmation hearing, Ms. Lynch said she would make it one of her “highest priorities” to strengthen the relationship between police and local communities, but what exactly she’ll do — and how closely she’ll fall in line with the White House’s directives — remains unclear.

“It’s my hope that Loretta Lynch will bring a different and more positive perspective to the president that might possibly falter the manner in which he approaches these type of police local community issues,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Mr. Alder was offended at the White House’s remarks on Tuesday that criticized black deaths by police, and said in order for Ms. Lynch to be successful and rebuild police trust in the Department of Justice and her role as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, she must step away from the President’s rhetoric and Mr. Holder’s divisive legacy.

Criminal justice advocates, however, hope Ms. Lynch will not only carry on Mr. Holder’s criminal justice work, but expand it.

SEE ALSO: Lynch clears filibuster, poised to become first black woman attorney general

In his six years in office, Mr. Holder held police departments to task to confront excessive use of force and championed a blistering critique of the policing policies used in Ferguson, Missouri. In his speeches he continually vocalized racial disparities within the legal system, and advocated for sentencing reform and the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws.

Mr. Holder’s so-called “Smart on Crime” initiative looked to release or reduce the prison sentence for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, and Mr. Holder said he was “cautiously optimistic” on the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. He’s also advocated on behalf of re-entry programs, earmarking grants to municipalities to start their own programs.

“I would suggest that we’re in a crisis, in so many areas that directly touch people’s lives: voting, police practices, education reform,” Denise Lieberman, the director of the Advancement Project told ThinkProgress, a liberal-leaning political blog. “It’s important to have someone in that top role who has experience and understands the nuances of how civil rights violations harm real people. Loretta Lynch’s professional and personal background suggests that she does.”

Ms. Lynch should consider expanding Mr. Holder’s sentencing guidelines, said Marc Levin, police director for Right On Crime, a criminal justice center. Mr. Holder, during his tenure, provided guidance to U.S. Attorney offices about when and when not to invoke the mandatory minimums in drug cases, which advocates see as a positive step in the right direction, Mr. Levin said.

Mr. Holder helped to refine the criteria that prosecutors need to meet before they can crack down on drug offenses. That means that low-level offenders are less likely to receive the same charges as a gang leader, he said.

In Ms. Lynch’s opening remarks to Congress, during her confirmation hearing, she did not once mention police conduct, drug policy, voting rights, race or mass incarceration. And unlike Mr. Holder, Ms. Lynch has said she supports capital punishment and would not support the legalization of marijuana. She did, however, express interest in juvenile justice reform.

“I think the next challenge as we look at how to manage our prison population and crime, which is how to help people that are released return to the communities from which they came and become productive citizens as opposed to returning to criminal behavior that returns them to the system and creates new victims and that is my focus,” Ms. Lynch said during her confirmation hearing.

She then cited her efforts within the Eastern District of New York where she worked on re-entry efforts with a focus on job training and building skills so those out of prison can become productive members of society and do no further harm.

In her first public statement as attorney general, she condemned the violence in Baltimore and said the Department of Justice was standing by to provide any assistance as needed.

On Tuesday, at Ms. Lynch’s direction, the head of the Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, the director of the Community Oriented Policing Services office, Ron Davis, and the head of the Community Relations Services office, Grande Lum, participated in several meetings with Baltimore city leadership, law enforcement, faith leaders, young people and members of the community to discuss the unrest in Baltimore and ways to address it.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide