By BRIAN WITTE
BALTIMORE (AP) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch pledged Tuesday to improve the city’s police department after meeting with the family of a man who was fatally injured in police custody.
“We’re here to hold your hands and provide support,” Lynch said in a meeting with faith and community leaders, including members of Congress.
The new attorney general met privately at the University of Baltimore with Freddie Gray’s family, days after the state’s attorney charged six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest. Gray’s injury in police custody and death a week later sparked protests and riots that prompted Maryland’s governor to bring in the National Guard.
Lynch was joined by the head of the Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Director Ronald Davis and Community Relations Service Director Grande Lum. Lynch met with Reps. Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.
“This is a flashpoint situation,” Lynch said. “We lost a young man’s life and it begins to represent so many things.”
The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating Gray’s death for potential civil rights violations. The Justice Department is expected to release results of a separate review of the police department’s use of force practices in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Baltimore City Council President Jack Young renewed his request that the Justice Department conduct a comprehensive, civil rights investigation into the policies, procedures and practices of the city’s police department.
Lynch later met privately with Police Commissioner Anthony Batts at police headquarters. She then met about a dozen officers who had been on the streets when violence broke out, telling them they joined a noble profession.
“We are here to help you work through these struggles,” Lynch said. “To all of you on the front lines, I want to thank you. You really have become the face of law enforcement. “
Lynch also met with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at City Hall.
Lynch returned to the University of Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon to meet with a group of residents who have protested against police brutality and excessive force.
Lynch, who is in just her second week on the job, has spoken repeatedly of the need to mend relationships between police and minority communities. At her January confirmation hearing, she described herself as being personally “pained” by the ongoing tensions, and spoke at her swearing-in ceremony last week of the need to “restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them.”
Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report in Washington.
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