"We look forward to Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearings to become the [next] attorney general, but there's no time to rejoice. Significant damage has been done and there is much work ahead to undo it,” said Ron Hosko, who is now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), a group that provides financial assistance to “wrongfully accused/charged law enforcement officers.”
“I think the rift is substantial,” Hosko told CNSNews.com, pointing out that although Holder received a “polite reception” at a recent international conference of chiefs of police, “behind the scenes there was significant negativity.”
Hosko said the rift has been caused in part by Holder’s handling of the August 9 incident in Ferguson, where the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson incited violent protests.
“You have not only the attorney general going out there and then in the days after, making references to having been pulled over allegedly for speeding – I don’t know that he’s ever really clarified whether he in fact was speeding – but he was offended by being pulled over by the police when he was a young man," Hosko told CNSNews.com.
“And my fear is, and the president has made some more comments in the days before and after Ferguson, and I think the concern that is echoing around law enforcement is here we have the chief executive of the country and the nation’s top law enforcement officer who, without knowing the facts, and perhaps without caring about the facts, are making their own connections to race.
“And it suggests to people in the community and the police that your actions will be viewed through that lens, even if race played no role.”
Law enforcement is “a tough job, and not necessarily made easier by the president’s comments and the attorney general’s comments that suggest the police were wrong without knowing the facts,” he added.
“My concern, based not only on my 30 years of government service but also in my current role, is due process for not only this law enforcement officer, Darren Wilson, but all law enforcement officers when they take action. Unbiased enforcement of the law gives police officers the same opportunity to explain and defend their actions as everybody else.”
“There should not be a rush to the race conclusion that inflames the community and gives them the opportunity to say, well, the president says so, the attorney general says so,” Hosko continued.
“Let’s wait and hear the facts. And if it happens that the cops are corrupt, that they are doing something in a prejudicial way, have at it, but let’s determine the facts before we make a conclusion.”
On Tuesday, Governor Jay Nixon announced that he was ordering the Missouri National Guard to go on standby as a precautionary measure in anticipation of a decision by a St. Louis County grand jury investigating the Brown shooting, which is expected sometime later this month.
Last month, one protester in Ferguson told CNN: “If there is not an indictment [of Wilson], excuse my French, all hell is going to break loose.”
In September, Holder announced that DOJ was launching a civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.
“One should not draw a connection between what we’re doing today and the matter that the grand jury is in the process of considering, in addition to the fact that we have our own independent investigation going on into the shooting,” the attorney general said at the time.
But in October, before the grand jury released its findings and before the federal probe had been completed, Holder stated that the Ferguson Police Department needed "wholesale change."
Hosko criticized the timing of Holder’s announcement, which he said suggests that the department “is a bunch of racists”.
“I know that he seems proud of the fact that they have doubled the number of ‘patterns and practices’ investigations on police. Again, if [the] Ferguson Missouri Police Department should have had a patterns and practices investigation opened on it by the Department of Justice, the timing couldn’t be worse from one perspective.
“And that is, it suggests that this department is broken, is way off track, is biased, is a bunch of racists. Could not the announcement [be made] sometime after the current investigation [of the Brown shooting] concluded?”
Hosko also complained about a similar rush-to-judgment by Holder in the highly publicized Trayvon Martin case. “The department made much of the Trayvon Martin situation and to date, after two years plus of a federal investigation, there’s been no result, and it could well be that the facts don’t merit it,” he told CNSNews.com.
“Too many people in our society equate the Travyon and Zimmerman encounter as a law enforcement. They make that leap. And that was not the police. That was two private citizens in that fatal encounter. George Zimmerman was not a police officer, was not deputized, was not acting with law enforcement authority,” he pointed out.
Law enforcement is difficult enough in some communities without public officials making polarizing comments about race, Hosko added.
“We have hundreds of dead in the streets of Chicago, the president’s own city. We expect our police to go into these very difficult neighborhoods, surgically pick out who the shooter is, and leave with him and have the community celebrate that they got the right guy.
“And too often, that’s not the case… In some communities, that is a titanic struggle. Too often the police go into a community that has a ‘don’t snitch’ culture, pieces of which we’re seeing in Ferguson,” he said.