U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch: ‘We will not turn back’

Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch delivers her capstone speech on community policing at the UB School of Law on Thursday (Jan. 12).

Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch delivers her capstone speech on community policing at the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center on Thursday (Jan. 12, 2017).

Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch delivered her capstone speech on community policing Thursday before a packed house at the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center. (Read the full text or watch a video of Lynch’s speech.)

Lynch’s speech followed the signing of a consent-decree agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore that will commit the city to making significant policing reforms. (See Baltimore Sun story.)

The attorney general met with Baltimore community leaders at the law center before her valedictory address. Among those at the meeting was Tawanda Jones, the sister of Tyrone West, who died during an altercation with Baltimore police in 2013.

“I’m here today because my brother, Tyrone West, was murdered and we still don’t know what happened,” Jones said after leaving the meeting with Lynch.

In her speech, Lynch said that in early 2015, as she prepared to take office, she knew community-police relations would be one of her top priorities. But, she said, the issue gained “fresh urgency” on the day she was sworn in “because of events unfolding right here in Baltimore.”

“I took the oath of office in Washington on April 27, 2015 – the day that Freddie Gray was laid to rest,” Lynch said. “Baltimore had already endured weeks of tension following Mr. Gray’s death. But on the day of the funeral, the protests swelled, and although many who took to the streets were peacefully exercising their constitutional right to free speech, some members of the community unfortunately resorted to destructive acts of violence that harmed property and persons. It was clear that here in Baltimore – as in so many American cities – deep-seated feelings of mistrust and hostility had gone unaddressed for too long. And it was clear that in order to repair the social fabric, those issues had to be dealt with honestly, comprehensively and immediately.”

Lynch said Baltimoreans, and Americans, were ready to take on the challenge of repairing trust between communities and the police.

“[H]istory teaches us that the road of progress has always been strewn with setbacks and obstacles, hardships and pitfalls. It also shows us that times of unrest can spur real change and real progress. What is important is that over the last eight years, we have chosen to start down that road together, as one nation and one people, united by our desire for liberty, our thirst for justice, and our belief in equality. We have started down that road, and as I look out at this outstanding group of public servants, advocates, and citizens – many of you working tirelessly to heal the divisions in this proud city – I see just how far we have come. I see how far we can still go. And I know that we will not turn back.”

(See “Trump era looms over consent decree and Lynch’s farewell” in the Baltimore Brew.)

Judge James K. Bredar, who serves on the U.S. District Court for Maryland, was assigned to oversee and enforce the consent decree. UB School of Law Dean Ronald Weich is quoted in a Baltimore Sun story about Bredar, who is the rare federal judge to have worked as a public defender as well as as a prosecutor.

“The Police Department and the citizens of Baltimore are both fortunate that Judge Bredar pulled this assignment,” Weich said. “He’s going to be fair, and going to be firm. I know Judge Bredar will be committed to enforcement of the consent decree.”

Read the full text of Lynch’s speech.

Watch Lynch’s speech here.

Also, read the  Justice Department news advisory about the just-released “Final Report on the President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing.”

Christine Wertz, a history major at the University of Baltimore, contributed reporting to this article.

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