The five-hour event was held at the Hattiloo Theatre and featured representatives from the city, local law enforcement, Shelby County Schools, and many other agencies.
Holder spoke during the event’s closing session.
After introductory remarks from both Memphis Police director Toney Armstrong and Mayor A C Wharton, Holder shared details of the new anti-profiling guidelines, which ban federal law enforcement agencies from using race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation as a factor during investigations, unless deemed relevant to a particular case.
Holder said the new guidelines will add to previous ones established by the Bush Administration in 2003.
“It’s time to institute new protections for those who come into contact with federal authorities,” Holder said. “And it’s time to bring enhanced training, oversight, and accountability to this process, so that anyone responsible for isolated incidents of profiling can be held responsible, and singular acts of discrimination do not tarnish the exemplary work that’s performed by the overwhelming majority of America’s federal law enforcement officials each and every day.”
Holder’s visit to Memphis comes on the heels of a Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, as well as a New York City grand jury’s decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for fatally choking unarmed 43-year-old Eric Garner.
During his speech, Holder condemned racial profiling committed by law enforcement. And he reflected on two personal experiences where he was profiled by cops.
“I will never forget the frustration I felt at being pulled over twice, and my car searched, on the New Jersey Turnpike, even though I’m sure I wasn’t speeding,” Holder said. “Or the humiliation of being stopped by a police officer while simply running to a catch a movie – at night, in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. – even though I was a federal prosecutor at the time.”
Holder is currently embarked on a nationwide tour, speaking in different cities about the country’s new anti-profiling guidelines. He’s also talking about My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative launched by President Barack Obama in February that seeks to increase the success rates of young men of color and bridge the opportunity gaps that many of them encounter.
By Louis Goggans