Statement by Attorney General Holder on the Ongoing Situation in Ferguson, Missouri
“Good afternoon. I have been briefed by members of the Justice Department and I wanted to provide a brief update of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts arising from the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I’ve been briefed today by the COPS director, Ron Davis, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Molly Moran, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Kappelhoff and members of my staff, all of whom are here with me now.
“They are overseeing the federal investigations into the shooting of Michael Brown as well as the investigation that we are doing of the Ferguson Police Department. I want to emphasize that we have two investigations that are ongoing. As I’ve said many times before and reiterated in my statement last night, the department’s investigations will continue to be thorough, they will continue to be independent and they remain ongoing. They will be conducted rigorously and in a timely manner so we can move forward as expeditiously as we can to restore trust, to rebuild understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.
“Last night and throughout the day, I have been briefed on events in and around Ferguson. I was disappointed that some members of the community resorted to violence rather than respecting what I thought were the really heartfelt words of Michael Brown Sr. and the wishes he expressed about how he wanted his son’s memory to be honored with nonviolence. It is clear that acts of violence threaten to drown out those that have legitimate voices, legitimate demonstrators and those acts of violence cannot and will not be condoned.
“By contrast, I’m very encouraged that some of the more peaceful demonstrations last night as well as today have occurred and have been in keeping with Mr. Brown’s request. I would remind demonstrators of our history that those, the way in which we have made progress in this country is when we have seen peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations that has led to the change that has been the most long lasting and the most pervasive.
“I’ve asked the COPS director, Ron Davis, to continue to confer with local law enforcement and to conduct an after action review so we can develop strategies for identifying and isolating the criminal elements from peaceful protesters. Additionally, I have instructed department officials to continue to make contact with leaders of the peaceful protesters and to seek their assistance in isolating those individuals who are inclined towards violence. We’ve had a good ongoing dialogue with peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson. I’ve been very heartened to hear about the good work that our community relations service has done as well as people under Mark in particular. And I’ve instructed them to maintain those levels of communications and keep those avenues of communications open.
“I really embrace those who have been proactively intervening to stop acts of violence within their midst and I encourage them to continue to exercise this important leadership. I know that that is not an easy thing to do but it was very heartening to hear about people last night trying to stop those other people who were trying to loot and trying to destroy businesses and burn things. Those people who took it upon themselves to try to stop those kinds of things are in fact heroes in my mind.
“Michael Brown’s tragic death has revealed a deep distrust between some in the Ferguson community and its police force. It also developed a need to develop and widely disseminate law enforcement best practices for responding to public demonstrations. The Department of Justice has begun this work and will continue to work with communities around the country in this regard. The reality is that what we see in Ferguson is not restricted to Ferguson. There are other communities around this country that have these same issues that have to be dealt with and we at the Justice Department are determined to do all that we can to bridge those divides. We launched in September our Building Communities of Trust initiative to provide training to law enforcement and communities on bias reduction and procedural fairness and we plan to apply evidence-based strategies in the five pilot sites around the country. This is all designed to bridge those divides, bridge those gaps between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. These gaps, these divides exist in other parts of the country beyond Ferguson and our focus will be nationally in its scope to try to deal ultimately with these issues. We will continue to advance this work, as I said, around the country in the coming weeks and months by bringing together elected officials, law enforcement officials and community leaders both to ensure dialogue but also action. This isn’t just about talking. We want to ensure that concrete steps are taken to address these underlying barriers to trust.
“I briefed the president today in the Oval Office about the situation in Ferguson, shared with him the perspectives of people in law enforcement and Justice Department officials who are there on the ground. We talked about programmatic issues that we want to announce relatively soon and also about the need to bring our people together. This is a difficult time for people in Ferguson. It’s a difficult time for people in our country. It’s an opportunity for us to find those things that bind us as a nation, to be honest with one another about those things that continue to divide us and come up with ways in which we make this union even more perfect. So that’s what I talked about with the president. He is committed to this effort as are the men and women of the United States Department of Justice. Thanks very much.”