Testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called on U.S. Attorney and Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch to rebuild the broken relationship between the Department of Justice and local law enforcement.
Citing Attorney General Eric Holder's involvement in Ferguson, Missouri over the summer, Clarke laid out a defense of police working in dangerous communities and called on Lynch to open lines of communication from Washington to cities around the country.
"I want to spend some time critiquing...Attorney General Eric Holder's tenure at the Department of Justice and use it as a framework as a way forward," Clarke said. "Incendiary rhetoric used by Eric Holder created a pathway for a false narrative that then became the rallying cry for cop haters across America. It sparked and justified hatred for America's law enforcement agents and its offices. Without a shred of evidence a broad brush has been used to unfairly malign the reputation of the professional policing in the United States. The accusation has been made that our communities systematically engage in the practice of targeting young black men because of the color of their skin. That claim is patently false. I reject out of hand the mere suggestion of it. If I'm wrong, someone needs to show me the evidence. Officers at the local level put on their uniforms and go out everyday to make their communities better and safer. Without them our communities would collapse into utter chaos."
Clarke also argued that the Department of Justice and the next attorney general must ensure that a proper and fair rule of law standard will be applied at the federal level when unfortunate incidents occur at the local level.
"Are cops perfect? No, in fact far from it, but they are the community's finest. Every community is unique in what will work and what will not work," Clarke said. "For the nation's sake, stop undermining the integrity and character of the American law enforcement officer."
Clarke isn't alone in his statements. Late last year, former assistant FBI director under Holder and current Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund President Ron Hosko, argued the same and called on President Obama to also play a role in the reestablishment of trust.
"It is my sincere hope that Ms. Lynch, if confirmed, will take immediate steps to begin repairing the rift created between the Obama Administration and the dedicated men and women of America’s law enforcement community," Hosko said in a statement. “The mere replacement of the attorney general is not enough. President Obama should demonstrate a re-commitment to the rule of law and a retreat from words and actions that signal a distrust of our law enforcement professionals. Early in his tenure and with no understanding of the underlying facts, he accused police of ‘acting stupidly’ in an engagement with a Harvard University professor, only to later learn of details that supported the police response. More recently, he sent three White House representatives to the funeral of Michael Brown, a young man who had just robbed a store and who reports suggest violently assaulted a police officer in an attempt to disarm him. By these words and actions, the president questions legitimate law enforcement authority, encouraging like-minded people to do the same, and widening the divide between police and the people they serve."
“We look forward to Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearings to become the attorney general, but there’s no time to rejoice – significant damage has been done and there is much work ahead to undo it. The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund stands ready to support important discussions between police and the Obama Administration to rebuild the trust that has so obviously been lost,” Hosko said.
A confirmation vote for Lynch is expected next month.