President Barack Obama announced Monday his plans to tackle the “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.”
The intended initiatives take into consideration the recent racial tensions that have been highlighted across the country as numerous boys and men of color have been seemingly inexplicably gunned down by law enforcement—events highlighted by the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed teen Michael Brown was slain.
Proposals from the president include a three-year $263 million investment package to increase the use of police body cameras, increased training for law-enforcement agencies, more resources for police department reform, and increasing the number of cities where the Justice Department facilitates engagement between local law enforcement and the communities served. Of the $263 million, about $75 million is proposed to purchase up to 50,000 body cameras.
The Task Force on 21st Century Policing, led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, will pull together a report with concrete recommendations to ensure successful policing while building trust within communities.
“This is not going to be an endless report that we’re going to have collecting dust on the shelf. My expectation is concrete recommendations that we can begin to operationalize over the federal, state and local levels. And the good news … is that we’ve got two folks who are respected by activists and respected by law enforcement, and I’m confident they’re going to do an outstanding job. I want them to help us make sure that crime continues to go down and more community trust in the police goes up,” the president said.
The president’s comments came after a Washington, D.C., meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Monday afternoon with elected officials, community and faith leaders, and law-enforcement officials. Notables included in the meeting were Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Addressing the press, the president also announced a review to ensure transparency and accountability in the program that provides local police with military equipment, to make sure that “we’re not building a militarized culture inside our local law enforcement.”
Obama ended his comments with a promise of action, far from the empty assertions that have been made in the past.
“There have been commissions before, there have been task forces, there have been conversations, and nothing happens. What I try to describe to people is why this time 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 this time is different,” he said. “When I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they’ve done everything right. That’s not who we are. And I don’t think that’s who the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to be.
“In the two years I have remaining as president, I’m going to make sure that we follow through—not to solve every problem, not to tear down every barrier of mistrust that may exist, but to make things better. And that’s how progress is always made in this great country of ours,” he added.