Lynch's handling of police in Baltimore is contrast to Holder

By Julia Edwards WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore on Tuesday, in the wake of rioting over the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, she made a deliberate attempt to cast herself as different from her predecessor. She visited police headquarters. Former attorney general Eric Holder faced eerily similar circumstances to Lynch in August 2014, amid civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. While Holder met with many people, including Brown's parents, he did not visit the police station. Lynch first met with Gray's family and then the police. "Thanks to all of you," she told the policemen, "I'm looking at the hardest working police officers in America." Police unions and law enforcement officers who have worked with Lynch said this outreach in Baltimore was characteristic of a different style from Holder's. "We are optimistic that we've hit the ground positively and we have every hope that it will stay that way," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police. Pasco said that while he respected Holder, he often disagreed with him. However, his two meetings with Lynch, even before she was officially confirmed as attorney general, were positive. The two violent outbreaks of rioting were not identical, of course. Ferguson police vigorously defended Darren Wilson, the local officer who shot Brown. In Baltimore, officers involved in the death of 25-year-old Gray while in police custody were swiftly charged by the chief prosecutor and the city quieted down. On Lynch's first day on the job, which coincided with the worst day of rioting in Baltimore, she held meetings that were focused on outreach to police as well as community members, a Justice Department official said. People who have worked with Lynch in previous positions said she was more focused on being a balanced prosecutor than the kind of civil rights advocate Holder was sometimes perceived to be. Former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who worked with Lynch when she was U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said she has tried to be seen as a vigorous prosecutor rather than an advocate for any side. He recalled her work to secure the death penalty in the case of Ronell Wilson, a man who shot two New York officers in 2003. "A lot of police unions saw it as being supportive," Kelly said. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Ted Botha)