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National

Attorney General Loretta Lynch Denounces Recent Attacks On Police Officers

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Law enforcement groups are shaken and outraged after killings of police officers in Texas and Illinois in the past week. They've been pressing the Obama administration to speak out about violence directed at law enforcement. And today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered an unequivocal message of support for police. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The Attorney General had been preparing to talk about a landmark housing law designed to break down racial barriers. But before she offered praise for the Fair Housing Act, Loretta Lynch went out of her way to denounce attacks on law enforcement officers.

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LORETTA LYNCH: I strongly condemn these recent and brutal police shootings in Texas and in Illinois. We have had four more guardians slain, and frankly, our hearts are broken.

JOHNSON: Lynch is the first black woman to serve as the country's top law enforcement officer. She spent almost her entire career working alongside agents and investigators.

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LYNCH: And I know that these men and women have volunteered to take on the most challenging, dangerous and important jobs that we have here. And they do this for us. They move us aside, and they run into danger for us.

JOHNSON: Eighty-five officers have died so far this year, a 16 percent increase over 2014. But the number of officers killed in firearms incidents has actually dropped. That's according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. But many current and retired officers are bothered by inflammatory rhetoric like this chant at a recent Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Pigs in a blanket - fry 'em like bacon. Pigs in a blanket - fry 'em like bacon.

JOHNSON: A member of the Black Lives Matter movement says that chant was not meant to refer to the murders of police. Instead, she says, it's important for activists to hold law enforcement accountable for shooting unarmed African-Americans and to keep talking about how their lives matter. But for Art Gordon, who used to work at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it's police lives on the line now.

ART GORDON: I spent 33 years carrying a badge, wearing a gun, doing a lot of dangerous things to protect and serve our nation, and I feel, unfortunately, right now that police officers are targets.

JOHNSON: Gordon accuses the White House and former attorney general Eric Holder of being too quick to blame the police.

GORDON: Police officers make split second decisions every day that could result in saving someone's life or taking someone's life.

JOHNSON: He says he's pleased the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, is backing police. Now Gordon and other advocates are asking the administration in Congress to take another step. They want to make it a federal hate crime to ambush and kill law enforcement officers, targeting them simply because they're doing their jobs. The attorney general hasn't committed to that.

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LYNCH: This violence against all of us, regardless of what uniform any of us wear, has to end.

JOHNSON: She says the Justice Department wants to reduce violent crime that touches everyone, and the department will host a conference in Detroit this month to discuss the issues. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.