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Loretta Lynch headed to Baltimore

Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the recent violence in Baltimore during a news conference at the Justice Department April 29, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Last Updated May 5, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

In one of her first acts as the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch will travel to Baltimore on Tuesday.

She has not yet visited the city in the wake of the riots and protests following the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a spinal injury and later died while in police custody.

Lynch, along with the head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, will meet with city officials, members of Congress, law enforcement officials, faith and community leaders and others. They will be joined by Ronald Davis, the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Grade Lum, the director of the Community Relations Service.

During a press conference last week, Lynch decried the violence in Baltimore and called for a "respectful conversation" there.

"It is easy to view Baltimore as a symbol of issues that we must all deal with. And of course, the difficult situation there highlights so many issues that are part of our national debate," she said. "But I'd ask that we remember that Baltimore is more than just a symbol. Baltimore is a city; it is a great city; it is a beautiful city; it is one of our cities. Like so many cities, Baltimore is struggling to balance great expectations and need with limited resources. It is dealing with balancing the challenges of public safety and community expression."

There is precedent for the attorney general to visit following a conflict like the one that was seen in Baltimore. President Obama dispatched former Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, Missouri after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police, sparking protests there that have been the model for other cities where black men have died after interactions with police. The Justice Department conducted a civil rights investigation after the incident that found the black population was routinely disproportionately subjected to excessive police force, baseless traffic stops and citations for infractions as petty as walking down the middle of the street.

Lynch's biggest challenge as the top law enforcement officer in the country will be striking the right balance between supporting the community while also supporting law enforcement. Holder was criticized for his trip to Ferguson where he seemed to "tip his hand" too far, but Lynch is likely going to try very hard to hear from both sides to avoid the same perception.

The Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into Gray's death and a review the city's police force, which has paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle claims of police brutality, according to a Baltimore Sun investigation.

CBS News Producer Paula Reid contributed to this report.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.