"While certainly there might be anecdotal evidence there, as all have noted, there's no data to support it," Lynch said in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
A number of high-profile police shooting incidents, many caught on ubiquitous camera phones, have given rise to protests over policing tactics that critics call heavy-handed. In some cities, police officers privately report holding back on making stops for fear of ending up the next YouTube "bad cop" sensation.
Last month, FBI Director James Comey threw his weight behind the idea
that restraint by cops in the wake of criticism is at least partly to blame for a surge in violent crime in some cities.
"In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?" he asked in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School, his alma mater.
"I don't know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior."
The evidence is lacking, Lynch says
Lynch's comments Tuesday contradict Comey's stance but are in line with what President Barack Obama's administration has said.
"The available evidence at this point does not support the notion that law enforcement officers are shying away from fulfilling their responsibilities," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a daily briefing soon after Comey's remarks.
"The evidence we've seen so far doesn't support the contention that law enforcement officials are somehow shirking their responsibility, and in fact you've seen law enforcement leaders across the country indicating that's not what's taking place," he said.
During her appearance in front of the judiciary committee, Lynch said, "And what I have seen in my travels across this country is the dedication, the commitment and the resolve of our brave men and women in law enforcement to improving policing, to embracing the 21st Century Task Force recommendations, and to continuing to have a dialogue that makes our country safer for all."