The Department of Justice will begin collecting law-enforcement data on stops, searches and arrests made in some U.S. cities to evaluate racial discrimination, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video statement Monday.
Mr. Holder said this initiative, funded by a $4.75 million federal grant, will help level the playing field for men of color and improve the relationship between African-Americans and the law-enforcement community.
Half of African-American men have been arrested at least once by age 23, and overall, black men were six times more likely to be imprisoned than white men in 2012, Mr. Holder said. The not-guilty verdict in the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin has furthered deteriorated minorities’ relationship with police, Mr. Holder said.
“This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront — not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement,” Mr. Holder said. “Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime.”
The federal grant will be awarded to recipients who compete for the funds to work with their local law enforcement to analyze arrest data and find ways to reduce any biases they find, particularly toward young minority men. The program will be called “the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice.”
The grants awarded under it will align with the priorities set forward by President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program, Mr. Holder said.
“Through partnerships with community organizations and local agencies, the Center will build on the work of the Department’s Smart on Crime initiative to help expand opportunity in neighborhoods that are too often characterized by distress and distrust; to reduce bias and discord; and — ultimately — to relegate the era of animosity and suspicion to the past,” he said.