U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke with a group of San Francisco youth Thursday about police and minorities as part of his recent efforts to address the ongoing distrust between communities of color and police.
Under heavy security, Holder held the sixth such meeting, this one with a group of local youth in a Hunters Point recreation center.
Holder’s meetings on a “lack of trust” expressed between communities of color and law enforcement comes months after two grand juries — in New York and Missouri — declined to prosecute white police officers in the killings of two unarmed black men and sparked subsequent nationwide protests.
“We have seen a lot of incidents in our country that … really gives us a lot of worry,” Holder said Thursday before a group of students, Mayor Ed Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr and U.S. Attorney Linda Haag.
Holder ended his brief comments by saying that “we as a nation have not addressed” the issue of race and policing, and that is why he held the meeting in the recreation center, which has headed up efforts to build connections between local youth and police.
Across the street from the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point, where Holder was having his private talk, residents of the Westbrook public-housing project had their own thoughts on police and community relations in San Francisco.
Lilla Pittman said she would tell Holder there “needs to be more sensitivity training” among San Francisco police officers.
Often, when police do get out of their cars, they seem to be looking to find problems rather than trying to solve them, she said.
The rest of the time there are too few police officers in the area and the officers that do come around only roll past in their cars, she said. Shana Davis, another area resident, agreed with Pittman.
“The police, they stereotype the young black boys,” Davis charged.
The youths who are often dealt with by police hang out in the streets, she said, because they have few job prospects and little to do.
The recreation center is the one place to play or be active, Davis said. But kids who don’t live immediately near the Boys & Girls Club are often afraid to attend, she said. That’s because public-housing residents from nearby projects are fearful of venturing into the area and vice versa.
But more basic unmet needs could help deter crime, she suggested.
Kiska Road, which runs in front of her apartment, needs basic upgrades like speed bumps and street lights, she said.
“If the neighborhood is it lit up,” she said, there would be less crime. And people would have to slow down if there were speed bumps.Bay Area NewsEd LeeEric HolderSan Francisco Police