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Georgia GOP Rep. to examine police, community relations in new congressional task force

Georgia congressman Doug Collins on Wednesday was named to a new 12-member working group  tasked with examining relations between law enforcement and the black community in the aftermath of several shootings involving police that have stoked racial tensions.

A lawyer, Baptist chaplain and son of a state trooper, Collins said he mainly plans to use the planned series of roundtables with stakeholders to listen.

“If it turns out that there are things that we can do, then I would be open to looking at it. But I think the biggest thing is starting a dialogue on how we help encourage understanding in this regard," the Gainesville Republican said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

The bipartisan task force is being led by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. It also includes several members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Its goal will not be explicitly to draw up legislation, but to hold candid discussions with stakeholders and experts to try and find common ground, its organizers said.

The task force's first meeting is tomorrow, when members will meet with DeForest Suares Jr., the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., and Deborah Ramirez, a Northeastern University law professor.

Collins said the task force should take the time to "get it right" before pushing out any major proposals.

"If there are recommendations or things that the communities and states can do or that we can do then let’s look at those issues. But I think to simply just jump to a gun control (bill), jump to this is the wrong answer in this," he said.

The group is House Speaker Paul Ryan's first legislative response following a gruesome week that saw two black men fatally shot by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and a sniper attack in Dallas that left five cops dead. The events have prompted protests across the country, including in Atlanta for several nights.

"I think it's very important that we calm down in this country, we start listening to each other, we start talking about solutions," Ryan, R-Wis., said at a CNN town hall last night. "We're already forming a bipartisan group in Congress to do just that, about training, about communities." Politico reported that the idea for the task force originated from two Congressional Black Caucus leaders on Friday.

As the nation continues to reel from the recent events, many Democrats have doubled down on their request for votes on gun control measures, but Ryan indefinitely delayed action on the only firearms-related legislation he had committed to bring to the House floor for a vote. Ryan said he didn't want to stoke more tension. GOP lawmakers were also split over the NRA-backed proposal.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.