Addressing the state of race and policing relations, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that he plans to introduce new policies that will end racial profiling "once and for all."
Speaking to a capacity crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher, Holder said he'd lay out specific policy changes in the coming days, but acknowledged that the events in Ferguson, Missouri, had laid bare significant issues regarding policing and race relations.
"The issues raised in Missouri are not unique to that state or small city," he said.
Tackling those issues would require systemic changes and a commitment at the federal, state, and local levels to change how law enforcement interacts with the public.
"Our police officers cannot be, or be viewed as, an occupying force, disconnected to the communities they serve," Holder said. "Bonds that have been broken must be restored; bonds that never existed must be created."
Part of that effort, he added, would be "rigorous new standards and robust safeguards to help end racial profiling once and for all."
The Bush administration outlawed racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies in 2003, but left the door open for national security cases. The Justice Department also did not limit officers from discriminating based on other factors, such as national origin, religion, or sexual orientation, Time reported.
Holder also touched on the Obama administration's support for the use of body cameras by local police by launching a $263-million, three-year effort to buy 50,000 body cameras for law enforcement.
The White House also planned to address "a lack of consistency" for how the military equipment is distributed to local police agencies, Holder said.
Local agencies would get streamlined standards for the type of military equipment they get and increased training for how to use it.
Ferguson police were criticized for their heavily armed response to protesters.
The attorney general's comments came one week after a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to file charges against a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.
Despite the grand jury's decision, Holder said that separate and independent Justice Department investigations into Brown's shooting death, and the actions of the Ferguson police department, remained ongoing.
Meanwhile, the ripple effect of the jury's decision, and the protest movement it sparked, continues to touch cities across the U.S.
Thousands of residents in cities across the U.S. have since mounted their own demonstrations, often using "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" as their anthem.
"The rifts that this tragedy exposed in Ferguson and elsewhere must be addressed," Holder said.
The ripple effects were also seen inside the church Monday night when a small group of demonstrators chanting "no justice, no peace" interrupted the attorney general's speech. Holder made it clear he wasn't upset at the demonstration, calling it "a genuine expression of concern and involvement."
"So let me be clear: I ain't mad at ya," he said.
Ferguson-inspired demonstrations have showed no signs of slowing. On Monday, thousands of students at campuses across the nation staged mass walkouts.
The night before, several St. Louis Rams players caused a stir after also raising their hands over their heads in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture during a home game against the Raiders.
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jason Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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