“It’s now been a year since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. His death—along with the events in Cleveland, Staten Island, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and other communities—sparked protests and soul searching all across our country. Over the past year, we’ve come to see, more clearly than ever, the frustration in many communities of color and the feeling that our laws can be applied unevenly,” the President said at the start of his weekly address.
He noted there was now concerted effort being made to address the issue of community policing and stated that the issues must be faced squarely in order to drive down crime and build up trust and cooperation between communities and police who put their lives on the line every single day to help keep people safe.
He further explained that in May, a task force made up of police officers, activists and academics proposed 59 recommendations which involve everything from the better use of data and technology, to the training of police officers, to how law enforcement engages with schools.
“We’ve been working with communities across America to put these ideas into action,” he said.
The President added, “Dozens of police departments are now sharing more data with the public, including on citations, stops and searches, and shootings involving law enforcement. We’ve brought together leaders from across the country to explore alternatives to incarceration. The Justice Department has begun pilot programs to help police use body cameras and collect data on the use of force. This fall, the department will award more than $160 million in grants to support law enforcement and community organizations that are working to improve policing. And all across the country – from states like Illinois and Ohio, to cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Nashville – local leaders are working to implement the task force recommendations in a way that works for their communities.”
He noted that although great strides have been made, the issues raised over the past year weren’t new, and moreover, can’t be solved by policing alone.
“We simply can’t ask our police to contain and control issues that the rest of us aren’t willing to address—as a society,” he declared.
He stated that the reforming of a criminal justice system that too often is a pipeline from inadequate schools to overcrowded jails, wreaking havoc on communities and families all across the country is an important first step.
He underscored the point that Congress must act to reform the federal sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders. He also said more should be done to help prisoners take steps to turn their lives around so they can contribute to their communities after they’ve served their time.
“More broadly, we need to truly invest in our children and our communities so that more young people see a better path for their lives. That means investing in early childhood education, job training, pathways to college. It means dealing honestly with issues of race, poverty, and class that leave too many communities feeling isolated and segregated from greater opportunity. It means expanding that opportunity to every American willing to work for it, no matter what zip code they were born into,” he said.
Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Fellow
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