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U.S. Justice Department to collect, study arrest data for racial bias

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies about his FY2015 budget request at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies about his FY2015 budget request at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday said it will begin collecting data on stops, searches and arrests made in five U.S. cities to weed out possible racial biases within the criminal justice system.

Later this year, a $4.75 million federal grant will be awarded to recipients who compete for the funds to work with their local law enforcement to analyze arrest data and find ways to reduce any biases they find, particularly toward young minority men.

Black men were six times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times more likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012, according to Justice Department data.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the data collection effort is in response to President Barack Obama's call for better relations between law enforcement and young men of color following the "not guilty" verdict in the shooting death of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

"Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime," Holder said in a video address released Monday.

The grants for data collection align with the goals of the Obama administration's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative that supports efforts by nonprofits and businesses to address the high murder rate and low educational performance among young minority men.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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