Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday issued new guidance to law enforcement to help officers maintain public safety while also protecting demonstrators' constitutional rights. The Resource Guide for Enhancing Community Relationships and Protecting Privacy and Constitutional Rights is a collaboration between the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
“The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation,” Holder said in a video announcing the guidance. “It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms. This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times — particularly in moments of heightened community tension.”
The guidance comes as the nation prepares to learn whether a grand jury in Ferguson has decided to press charges against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed on the fateful day when their paths crossed.
That community and communities across the nation have been on pins and needles for nearly a week awaiting the ruling and tensions have begun to simmer in the St. Louis suburb.
While Holder did not mention Ferguson, he did note the demonstrations and protests in recent months "that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias and pervasive community distrust." He said that he knows from personal experience that such efforts can "spark a sustained and positive national dialogue and bring about critical reform."
But the attorney general also had words of caution for protesters.
"History has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence," he said. "And so I ask all those who seek to lend their voice to important causes and discussion, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter."
Michael Brown Sr. also is calling for calm, no matter what the grand jury decides.
"Hurting others and destroying others is not the answer," Brown said in a new public service announcement video. "No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."
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(Photo: The Justice Department via YouTube.com)