The attorney general told an audiance at the annual National Action Network convention in New York that his father gave him advice as a boy on how to interact with police if he ever felt he had been stopped unfairly.
“I thought of my father’s words years later, when – as a college student – I was pulled over twice on the New Jersey turnpike and my car was searched – even though I was sure I hadn’t been speeding,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “I thought of them again some time after that, when a police officer stopped and questioned me in Washington while I was running to catch a movie – even though I happened to be a federal prosecutor at the time.”
“And I couldn’t help but think of my father just a couple of years ago when I sat down to convey the same message to my own teenage son after the shooting of Trayvon Martin – a conversation I hoped I’d never have to have,” he added.
Holder’s appearance came amid intense media scrutiny of National Action Network President and msnbc host Al Sharpton. New documents published this week drew attention to Sharpton’s involvement with the FBI in the 1980s. Sharpton defended his cooperation with the FBI during a news conference Tuesday, saying, “I was never told I was an informant with a number. In my own mind, I was not an informant. I was cooperating with investigations.”
President Obama is scheduled to appear at the group’s convention on Friday.
Holder also spoke on the importance of an open relationship between police and the communities they serve. He described plans to bring together “civil rights organizations and law enforcement leaders to identify areas of concern – and reduce the likelihood that race will play any role in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.”
“As it stands – in far too many places – a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps individuals, devastates families, and weakens communities,” he said. “It is long past time for us to break this cycle.”