The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly—one of the reporters who, in August, was arrested for more or less no good reason in a Ferguson McDonald’s—has a profile today of Christy E. Lopez, the Justice Department official heading the civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. Lopez’s job is a tricky one: If she determines that the department systematically violates citizens’ rights, she’s also in charge of putting together a plan to solve the problem. She’s defending the public, but also needs to maintain a working relationship with the police. Fortunately, it seems that her background is ideal for that kind of balance:
Part of her success, say those who have worked with her, is her understanding of police practices as well as the sacrifices made by members of law enforcement. Lopez’s father, who did not speak any English until he began attending school, worked his way up to become a homicide detective in Southern California. Her father’s job, as well as her mother’s work as an X-ray technician, offered their family a pathway to a middle-class existence. Lopez would become the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree and would eventually graduate from Yale Law School.
As the passage suggests, this isn’t the first case of its kind that Lopez has been involved with; she’s worked for the Department of Justice on similar investigations, as a federal court monitor overseeing police reforms, and as an independently contracted investigator of a controversial shooting in Illinois. And while she’s working for an administration that’s been tough on police departments, Reilly’s sources—even a union leader who disagreed with her conclusions in the Illinois case—praise her receptiveness to the concerns of local authorities. What remains to be seen, of course, is whether anyone, no matter how qualified, can create a plan of action that’s acceptable to both officers and residents in Ferguson, where demonstrators are still getting arrested in front of the police department going on two months since Michael Brown’s death.