Justice Dept. to announce grants for hiring of new officers

Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2016, before the House Judiciary Committee. Lynch testified before Congress amid a roiling national debate over police violence and as House Republicans seek a Justice Department perjury investigation of Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2016, before the House Judiciary Committee. Lynch testified before Congress amid a roiling national debate over police violence and as House Republicans seek a Justice Department perjury investigation of Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch is announcing Justice Department grants Monday to help police departments across the country hire new officers.

The $119 million in funding is being announced in Dallas, site of a sniper ambush in July that left five officers dead, at the start of National Community Policing Week. Other events planned for the week include a town hall discussion on diversity in law enforcement and an awards ceremony, both in Washington.

The goal is to highlight the need for strong relationships between communities and law enforcement, an especially urgent Justice Department priority in light of a months-long stretch of high-profile slayings of both police officers and citizens in not only Dallas but in communities including Baton Rouge, Charlotte and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.

“The recent events we’ve seen, particularly this summer, have raised the visibility of this issue beyond just the communities that have traditionally felt impacted by it,” Lynch said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The grants, provided by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, are being awarded to 184 law enforcement agencies and are intended to create or preserve more than 900 positions. Almost all of the jobs will be new hires, though the grants will allow some officers to either be rehired or protected from being laid off.

Dallas, which Lynch said already has a strong community policing model, is scheduled to receive $3.1 million to hire 25 new officers.

While in Dallas, Lynch is scheduled to participate in a community policing youth forum on Monday and will join Mayor Mike Rawlings for an evening in the community on Tuesday.

“It’s been tremendously heartening that Dallas has stuck together through all of that,” Lynch said.

“I thought frankly it was just a tragic irony that in a community where you had police officers who were making sure that the protest went forward as planned and as authorized, that’s the city that someone chose to come to and try to sow dissension,” she added.

The recipients of the grants include large cities like Los Angeles, Detroit, Louisville and Charlotte, but also much smaller agencies in Biddeford, Maine, Twin Falls, Idaho and Carlisle, Iowa.

Lynch said there’s broad agreement, including among protesters, about the need for an effective and responsive police department that keeps the community safe. But she said there’s a simultaneous demand from the public for departments that are accountable and transparent about their decisions.

“There’s a hunger out there in so many communities, particularly minority communities, for a positive relationship with law enforcement,” she said.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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