Former Attorney General Eric Holder addressed Rochester police officers on Thursday in a keynote address at a new two-day mandatory training program, called the Robert E. Craig Institute for Ethical Leadership.
Holder, who was A.G. under the Obama administration, spoke to about 75 officers in attendance. All other officers are required to view a recording of the training, which is meant to move the department towards police reform.
“Lead with honor,” Holder said over Zoom. “This includes any time you might see another officer about to do something that just crosses a line. In that moment it becomes your job, your duty, to intervene. And not just because the new RPD’s policy makes this official.”
A schedule of events shows those selected to be part of a community panel include city councilmember Willie Lightfoot, Reverend James Simmons, and Ibero-American Action League president and CEO Angelica Perez-Delgado.
“Growing up in neighborhoods where you’re seeing people get killed, people get shot, and then there’s this constant tension and interaction with the police," said Perez-Delgado. “It is obvious we’re not going to police our way out of gun violence. We’re not going to police our way out of many of the issues. And I think because of the history of the police with our Black and brown community, that’s not what we want to do.”
In his address, Holder said that while something as common as implicit bias affects everyone, the stakes are higher for police.
“But unlike the rest of us, you, you carry the power of the state along with your service weapon and a monopoly on force in every situation you step into,” he said.
The training continues through Friday, with sessions covering the adolescent brain, “police mindset,” and “excited delirium,” a controversial term in the mental health field as it is often cited in cases of excessive and lethal police force used against Black men, including Daniel Prude, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd.
“When people don’t trust police for well-founded reasons, or for no reason at all, even the most routine interactions are more likely to become confrontational,” Holder said.