Protests broke out across the country following the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles last year. The very public unrest forced politicians and law enforcement agencies to examine the distrust between police and communities of color.
In an effort to address the issues, Attorney General Eric Holder has been touring the U.S. as part of the Justice Department's "National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice."
During his stops in Oakland and San Francisco on Thursday, Holder spoke with Take Two about improving relations between law enforcement and the public, and about how he views his legacy as his six years in office come to a close.
On how the U.S. tour has been going so far
"This is the sixth stop on the tour that I have been doing and what I think we've generally been hearing is a real strong desire on the part of people in law enforcement and the communities that they serve to reach across some traditional boundaries and to interact with one another in a way that has not happened in the past. [To] rebuild the trust that needs to exist between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. And one of the things we're trying to do is to try to be a catalyst to build that trust up."
On whether the Justice Department will step in with civil rights charges in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner
"Well we have a very high bar that we have to meet in order to bring federal charges. We are still in the process of reviewing what happened in Ferguson, we're reviewing what happened with [the] Eric Garner matter. My hope is that we will be able to announce, at least with regard to the Ferguson investigations that we have under way, announce the results of those before I leave as Attorney General probably some time the latter part of February or early March."
On whether he has concerns about the public reaction if federal charges are not brought against the officers
"My hope would be that however it is announced that people understand that what we did at the Justice Department was as I promised: thorough, independent, and decided irrespective of anything other than the facts and the law. And so I'm not going to say we're going to decide it one way or the other, but I would hope that people have confidence in the process in which we have engaged."
On what he sees as his top achievements as Attorney General
"That'll be for others I think to decide. I certainly think the efforts that we've made [in] criminal justice reform, our 'Smart on Crime' initiative I think has been something about which we're going to be proud over the years. The whole focus on civil rights issues, dealing with LGBT issues and the way in which we have conducted ourselves there, and kind of pushed I think to make sure that all of our citizens are treated in a fair and equitable way. I think these are among the things that historians will say that this Justice Department got right."