Saying “the point of greatest tension between law enforcement and communities revolves around how young people of color are treated by police,” the U.S. Justice Department is setting up a National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice to “help communities address the challenges arising from suspicion, distrust and lack of confidence in our law enforcement agencies.” The center, which DOJ will spend up to $4.75 million to establish, “will expand our base of knowledge about what works to improve procedural fairness, reduce bias, and promote racial reconciliation,” Associate Attorney General Tony West said on Friday. “For Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department he leads, few things are as troubling or in need of our urgent attention as a criminal justice system that lacks integrity in the eyes of those it is supposed to serve,” West said in a program at the Ford Foundation in New York City.
West said the center would deal with “a broad range of areas in which fairness and trust are implicated,” including police stops and searches, and wrongful convictions. He said a team of cross-disciplinary experts would conducting research, test innovative ideas, develop models for rigorous evaluation, and disseminate research and best practices to the field. U.S. Attorneys will test strategies at five pilot sites. The initiative will be jointly supported by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, COPS Office, Civil Rights Division, Office on Violence Against Women, and Community Relations Service.