U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Philadelphia Thursday to meet with city officials and some residents as part of a nationwide tour devoted to soothing community relations with police.
In the aftermath of community unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City following the killing of unarmed black men, President Barack Obama had Holder arrange a series of events aimed at outlining best practicing for policing.
Philadelphia is the fifth city on the tour, which has also stopped in Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis and Oakland.
Holder’s expected to discuss reform initiatives, including the government’s new review of racial profiling practices and Obama’s proposal to increase funding to equip local police with body cameras.
In Holder’s Atlanta speech, which was open to the public and held at a Baptist church, he said, “Our police officers cannot be seen as an occupying force disconnected from the communities they serve.” At one point, a gaggle of Ferguson-related protesters interrupted the attorney general.
The Philadelphia event is invite-only.
Rob Kane, who studies police authority and accountability at Drexel University, said the Obama administration is in the midst of a “legitimacy crisis in American urban policing.” It was sparked, he said, in part by grand juries failing to indict police officers in Ferguson and Staten Island.
Kane said keeping the speech closed to the public helps maintain an orderly audience and creates a platform for delivering an uninterrupted message.
“If you’re up on stage, and you’re trying to convey a point and look as if you have control over a situation, then you don’t want to be heckled, and you don’t want it on camera that you’re being heckled, or facing resistance,” Kane said.
Furthermore, Kane said Holder’s decision to embark on a public relations tour months after large organized protests cooled down in cities around the country was likely intentional.
“It’s always easier to make these presentations when the heat isn’t quite so high, rather than months ago,” Kane said. “They really want to appear as if they’re in change of the situation.”
Holder announced his resignation in September, but he promised to stay as the country’s top prosecutor until the Senate confirms his replacement.
Holder is scheduled to meet with Mayor Michael Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and a group of community leaders and students who were invited to attend.
The event is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Center City.