One does not need a public opinion poll to know that fear and frustration is rampant in many communities across our Nation. Our newsfeeds and TV screens are filled with reports of deadly attacks on police officers and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers. These tragic events have strained race relations and heightened tensions as well as further added to feelings of mistrust between communities and law enforcement. When African-American men and women are pulled over for routine traffic stops, many fear that officers will cause undue harm. And as the men and women in blue head out on their daily patrols, many worry that it may be their last.

It seems as though there are two factions forming: one pro-police and one pro-racial justice. As Members of Congress, we strongly reject this notion of division. The senseless deaths that have occurred over the last several weeks are unconscionable. These incidents must not become the new normal for our communities. 

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Just days before his murder, Montrell Jackson, an African-American  police officer, summed up these issues  in a Facebook post: “In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat…These are trying times.” He further called on his fellow citizens: “Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”

As a Nation, we must heed Officer Jackson’s call and come together to address these tensions so that we can overcome all unjustified acts of violence. Every layer of civil society – neighbors, community leaders, churches, and state and local governments – must confront this matter of vital national importance.

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, we recently established a bipartisan working group to examine the use of force by law enforcement, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. We are not naïve enough to believe that we can fix this problem by ourselves. However, we can and must devote urgent Congressional attention to these serious problems that must be addressed, and determine what can be done at the federal level to set an appropriate tone. In addition, we need to work with state and local communities to help find the tools they need to do the hard work of improving the relationships between their law enforcement agencies and residents. 

Before Congress adjourned, we and the 10 other members of the working group met for the first time to candidly discuss the issues fueling the current state of distrust between some of the public and law enforcement. Each of us comes from different walks of life and different parts of the country and can learn from one another and our constituents. We plan to hold more meetings when we return to Washington, D.C. in September, but in the meantime, we intend to take action to learn more about the problem and potential solutions from the individuals, law enforcement agencies, and community leaders in our state and local communities.

We plan to listen and talk with a variety of people in our districts who are impacted by this problem: law enforcement, religious and other community leaders, area youth, and mothers and fathers who have lost children to violent crime. We want to hear about people’s own experiences so that we can understand the fears and frustrations of those impacted most by the ongoing tension.

The issues driving the wedge between law enforcement and the public will not be solved overnight and they won’t be solved by the federal government alone. Much of the hard work needs to happen in local communities, but we in Congress acknowledge the gravity of this problem and are committed to finding solutions. There is room for compassion for all the victims of violence on our streets.  We must work together as fellow Americans on this issue so that we live up to our nation’s values of liberty and justice for all. 

Congressman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (R-Va.) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. is Ranking Member. Both are leading the new working group on policing strategies. Members of the working group are: Representatives Trey GowdyTrey GowdyGowdy: Sarah Sanders doesn't get say whether Comey broke the law Trump condemns Rice's unmasking: 'What she did was wrong' Sessions, Coats push for permanent renewal of controversial surveillance law MORE (R-S.C.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dave ReichertDavid ReichertJuan Williams: Momentum builds against gerrymandering GOP worries as state Dems outperform in special elections Targeted Republicans push back on retirement speculation MORE (R-Wash.), Susan BrooksSusan BrooksThe Online Safety Modernization Act is a much-needed response to a growing problem Ethics panel extends review of Rep. Collins over investments Senators introduce 'cyber hygiene' bill MORE (R-Ind.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson-LeeHouse Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill Trump could ask Congress for billions in hurricane relief next week Texas rep: Trump needs to declare federal disaster area for Harvey MORE (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.