By Dustin Slaughter and Kenneth Lipp
Attorney General Eric Holder visited Philadelphia Thursday as part of a national “Building Communities of Trust” listening tour in the wake of protests across the country over policing practices and widespread distrust between communities of color and law enforcement.
According to a Newsworks report by Bobby Allyn, the actual roundtable discussion, which was closed to the media and public, was preceded by a 20 minute comment session during which Holder stated:
“One thing I want to emphasize, though, is that the mistrust that exists in certain communities is real, and we have to concede that,” Holder told the mostly black group. “This is not something that’s made up. It is not something that’s a media invention. These are feelings that are real.”
Key community stakeholders were not invited by Holder to attend the private roundtable discussion, however. Media outlet Al Dia criticized the apparent absence of any Hispanic community representatives:
In an article published today, Al Dia‘s Arturo Valera pointed to statistics indicating 18% of Hispanics have been the victims of officer involved shootings over the past five years. He also points to other areas of law enforcement that impact, or have impacted, Hispanic Philadelphians:
…there have also been instances of tension between members of the Latino community in Philadelphia and local police, among them, the case of an officer who was recorded in video punching a Latina woman during the celebration after the Puerto Rican parade; police tossing Dominican bodegas in North Philly, and the mistrust of the Latino immigrant community due to city’s Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) which allowed for the sharing of information with federal immigration agencies — this last was lessened in 2014 after Mayor Nutter signed an executive order.
Police oversight groups like the Police Advisory Commission were not invited either. PAC executive director Kelvyn Anderson in fact expressed his disappointment to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, chief prosecutor for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In a statement shared with The Declaration, Anderson wrote:
“I’m sure you can understand our disapointment at not being at the table for such an important discussion. I note that the President’s Task Force has also failed to include input from our national organization, NACOLE, which represents 150 oversight entities around the nation. We need to be heard, as well as the hand-picked community representatives that are chosen by law enforcement.”
He also conveyed dismay at what he described as “defensive law enforcement comments” during Monday’s first Policing Task Force meeting, a Presidential commission chaired by police chief Charles H. Ramsey, and added that police representatives’ remarks don’t “bode well for an honest outcome.”
Mayor Nutter addressed the closed-door format to reporters after the event. According to Newsworks, the Mayor “said it was necessary to keep the meeting closed so that comments weren’t spun into ‘half of a sound bite.’ He said it allowed for the group to speak freely without the fear of being misunderstood by the public.”
Find the full list of attendees at yesterday’s event below.