Obama: 'Simmering Distrust' Between Police, Minorities Is a 'National Problem'

Susan Jones | December 2, 2014 | 5:29am EST
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President Barack Obama, right, seated with Charles Ramsey, left, Commissioner Philadelphia Police Dept., speaks after a meeting with civil rights activists in Washington, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - "I think Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis or that area, and is not unique to our times," President Obama said on Monday. "And that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color."

The president said distrust of police is not confined to Ferguson: "This is a problem that is national. It is a solvable problem, but it's one that unfortunately spikes after one event, and then fades into the background until something else happens.

According to the president, too many people -- particularly young minorities -- "do not feel as if they are being treated fairly.

"And as I said last week, when any part of the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that's a problem for all of us. It's not just a problem for some. It's not just a problem for a particular community or a particular demographic. It means that we are not as strong as a country as we can be. And when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we're not as effective in fighting crime as we could be."

Obama spoke to reporters at the end of a White House meeting with police and civil rights activists. He said he wants to start "an honest conversation between law enforcement, community activists, academics, elected officials, the faith community, to try to determine what the problems are and most importantly, try to come up with concrete solutions that can move the ball forward."

Obama said one of the "most powerful things" that happened on Monday was his conversation with several young people from Ferguson: "And what made me concerned was the degree to which they feel as if they are not heard or that the reality of what they experienced has been denied."

In a nod to police officers, Obama said they have a tough and dangerous job -- and, "you know, we have to be able to put ourselves in their shoes."

Obama said that building trust between police and minority communities isn't going to happen immediately, but he announced three "concrete steps" to make it happen:

-- A task force will report to the president in 90 days with "best practices" recommendations to reduce crime goes and boost community trust in the police;

-- Obama will sign an executive order to guard against a "militarized culture inside our local law enforcement";

-- A three-year, $263-million spending package to train local law enforcement and provide up to 50,000 additional body cameras for law enforcement agencies.

Obama said unlike other task forces and commissions whose recommendations are ignored, his task force on Ferguson will be different: "And part of the reason this time will be different is because the president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different."

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