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Attorney General listens to Richmond leaders

on September 25, 2015

U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Richmond on Friday, ending a national tour in a city starting to shake off its reputation as a crime capital.

Lynch, addressing a cross-section of community leaders in the Richmond City Council chambers Friday, said she wanted to learn from cities that have “fought their way back from the brink.”

Richmond has been attracting recognition as a model of improved community and police relations. Yet on Friday, a small crowd protested before Lynch spoke, alleging police misconduct in a shooting outside a Richmond liquor store last year.

Lynch met with police officers and high school students earlier in the day before meeting at City Hall with about 25 civic leaders including Mayor Tom Butt and other members of the Richmond City Council, Police Chief Chris Magnus, court representatives, religious and nonprofit leaders and students.

Lynch said no issue was more important than addressing police and community relationships. She referred to recent high-profile incidents that have occurred from Ferguson to Baltimore as “flash points” in a long history of mistrust.

Her visit underscored recent portrayals of Richmond as a city moving in the right direction. But no one was claiming all the work has been done.

Magnus echoed this sentiment when he spoke with reporters before Lynch’s remarks.

“We are not here to say ‘mission accomplished.’ We expect to hear candid observations from the community today,” he said.

A dozen or so people staged a rally outside City Hall before Lynch spoke. The protest, led by the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression, concerned the shooting death of Richard “Pedie” Perez III by a Richmond police officer last year.

Protesters said the city is blocking an independent investigation called for by the Perez family. Lynch made no public comment on the case and took no questions from reporters.

Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth, an outdoor education initiative, said the dynamic between Richmond citizens and police is complicated by the different attitudes of individual officers. Some are doing an exemplary job of community engagement, and some may not be, she said.

Ruben Canedo of the University of California at Berkeley said the attorney general seemed “very receptive” to the message she heard from community figures.

“The fact that she came to Richmond says a lot,” Canedo said. “She’s here to learn from the people doing the work.”

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