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Eric Holder launches federal effort to reduce racial tensions between cops, communities

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Attorney General Eric Holder listens during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, where he announced the Justice Department's civil rights division will launch a broad civil rights investigation in the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Attorney General Eric Holder launched a new program Thursday designed to "combat distrust and hostility" between police and the cities and towns they patrol.

Under the initiative, a $4.75 million grant will help fund a training program for cops and community leaders. The effort is a direct result of the race-related protests in Ferguson, Missouri that followed the shooting of an 18-year-old black student by a white police officer.

Attorney General Eric Holder is proposing a new plan to help rebuild trust between cops and communities that have suffered from racial tensions. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

"The events in Ferguson reminded us that we cannot allow tensions, which are present in so many neighborhoods across America, to go unresolved," Holder said Thursday. "As law enforcement leaders, each of us has an essential obligation – and a unique opportunity – to ensure fairness, eliminate bias, and build community engagement."

Holder called the new effort, known as the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a "major step forward" to ease tensions in communities across the country.

But he said the program would start by providing training to both police and communities on "bias reduction and procedural fairness" in just five pilot areas of the country. The training will be done by law enforcement experts led by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and including Yale Law School, UCLA and the Urban Institute.

Those experts will be guided by advisors that include law enforcement leaders, faith-based groups and community and civil rights leaders.

The initiative will also lead to a "clearinghouse" that will collect information on best practices, and is aimed at "reducing implicit bias and facilitating racial reconciliation." Holder said the idea was first raised in the My Brother's Keeper task force report from the White House.

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