Justice effort aims to reduce racial bias in arrests
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will collect data about police stops, searches and arrests, aiming to reduce possible effects of racial bias in the justice system, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday.
The agency is launching a new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, which will focus data-collection on five cities over two years as part of a $4.75 million pilot program.
Holder said in a video message the initiative grew from the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Orlando in 2012 and from President Barack Obama to improve trust between law enforcement and the minority communities.
Holder has ordered a federal civil rights probe of the racially-charged Martin case, which is ongoing.
Holder cited a study that showed the majority of African-American men are arrested at least once by age 23, and that group was six times more likely than white men to be imprisoned. The figure for Latino men was 2.5 times higher than whites.
“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,” 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,” he said.
The five cities to be studied by the Justice Department under the initiative will be announced later.
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