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Justice Dept. chooses 6 cities for project on curbing racial bias (+video)

Researchers will study data and conduct interviews to develop strategies for building trust between residents and law enforcement as part of the project. The announcement comes amid mounting tensions in Ferguson.

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    Attorney General Eric Holder announced six pilot cities for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice in Washington on Thursday.
    Andrew Harnik/AP
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Six cities will participate in a federal pilot program aimed at reducing racial bias and improving ties between law enforcement and communities, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

The cities are Fort Worth, Texas; Gary, Ind.; Stockton, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala. Minneapolis; and Pittsburgh.

The announcement of their selection came six months after Mr. Holder revealed the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting last August.

As part of the $4.75 million project, researchers will study data and conduct interviews to develop plans for curbing bias and strategies for building trust between residents and law enforcement. Separately, the Justice Department said it would offer extra training and help to communities that are not part of the project, which is part of the Obama administration's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative aimed at minority men.

Weeks of protests that followed the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer in Ferguson, exposed the frayed relations between that community and law enforcement and underscored the need for a nationwide initiative, Holder has said.

"What I saw in Ferguson confirmed for me that the need for such an effort was pretty clear," Holder said in a September interview with The Associated Press in which he announced the project.

The department last week cleared the officer, Darren Wilson, of criminal civil rights charges in that shooting but also released a scathing report that detailed a slew of discriminatory policing practices in Ferguson and a profit-driven criminal justice system. Since that report, Holder said he has seen signs of progress and a community willing to create change. The police chief and city manager, for instance, both resigned in recent days.

He condemned the shootings of two police officers early Thursday in front of the Ferguson Police Department, calling it a "pure ambush" and the act of a "damn punk" that may have been intended to unravel progress that's been made.

"Incidents like the one we have witnessed throw into sharp relief why conversations like the one that we've convened today and we're going to be having – to build trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve – are really so important," Holder said.

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