After a vociferous outcry over the high-profile deaths of unarmed Black men who died at the hands of White police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, President Barack Obama on Monday called for sweeping reforms of police tactics in cities across the nation.
The president released findings of the White House task force set up after the deaths last summer of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City’s Staten Island community. The report, which recommends an overhaul of the criminal justice system, says law enforcement agencies should seek independent criminal investigators and independent prosecutors to review cases when someone dies or is injured during encounters with police, according to a statement.
The task force also urges law enforcement officers to work to develop trust in communities by creating policies to address racial profiling, changing oppressive tactics while patrolling protesters and gathering statistics on shootings and deaths by police. The task force also calls for more diverse police forces so that they better reflect the communities they serve.
“[A] lot of our work is going to involve local police chiefs, local elected officials, states recognizing that the moment is now for us to make these changes,” the president said in the statement. “We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel, rather than being embattled, feel fully supported. We need to seize that opportunity.”
Obama warned that some of the recommendations would be controversial, including independent investigations and independent special prosecutors for situations when civilians die at the hands of police officers.
“But the importance of making sure that the sense of accountability when, in fact, law enforcement is involved in a deadly shooting is something that I think communities across the board are going to need to consider,” he said. “Or some recommendations around prohibiting racial profiling. That’s a step that we’ve already taken at the federal level.”
He also delved into technology, citing police body cameras, but warned that they are not the antidote to ending tensions between police and the Black community.
“There’s been a lot of talk about body cameras as a silver bullet or a solution,” he said. “I think the task force concluded that there is a role for technology to play in building additional trust and accountability, but it’s not a panacea, and that it has to be embedded in a broader change in culture and a legal framework that ensures that people’s privacy is respected and that not only police officers but the community themselves feel comfortable with how technologies are being used.”
Criminal justice reform has been a hallmark of the Obama Administration. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday met with the Coalition for Public Safety, a bipartisan organization tasked with reforming the nation’s criminal justice system. Holder’s Department of Justice has made great strides in reforming the nation’s sentencing policies and reducing the federal prison population.
“In our ongoing effort to reform our criminal justice system, the formation of a coalition this ideologically diverse represents an important milestone unto itself,” Holder said in a statement. “Though different concerns may bring us to the table—whether it be the skyrocketing costs of incarceration, or the unfair disparities seen in our prison population—the important thing is the broad consensus in favor of action on this issue.”
SOURCE: White House.gov