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Obama to Chiefs: Oversight Will Strengthen Law Enforcement

Obama to Chiefs: Oversight Will Strengthen Law Enforcement

Wednesday, 28 October 2015 06:59 AM

The ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest movement against excessive use of force by police shouldn’t divide law enforcement officers from their communities, and strengthening U.S. gun laws would save the lives of cops as well as citizens, President Barack Obama plans to tell police chiefs on Wednesday.

Obama also is seeking to persuade law-enforcement officials that punishments for non-violent drug offenses should be reduced, arguing that would free resources to address more serious crimes. While violent crime is on the decline in the U.S., several cities have seen a spike in shootings, including Chicago, where the president will speak to the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention.

"Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system," Obama will say in the speech, according to excerpts released by the White House. "We can’t expect you to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren’t willing to face or do anything about," including failing schools, too few jobs, a shortage of drug treatment programs and ready access to firearms, he will say.

Policing Protests

Obama’s speech to more than 14,000 law enforcement officials comes in the wake of protests across the country in the past year after shootings of unarmed black men by police. The incidents have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and heightened scrutiny of police officers, a phenomenon that the FBI director, James Comey, said may be to blame, in part, for a recent rise in crime by discouraging aggressive enforcement. He called it the "Ferguson effect," after the Missouri city where the protests began in 2014.

Before Obama’s speech, the White House released a report on police tactics that advises the use of "community policing" to heal the growing rift between minorities and officers. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there is no evidence to support Comey’s "Ferguson effect" theory, which has also been embraced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff.

Sentencing Reform

Obama last week defended Black Lives Matters, which arose after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white officer in Ferguson. The movement gained steam after several subsequent police shootings of unarmed black men were captured on video.

In addition to calling for changes in police tactics, Obama has pushed for a broader review of the criminal justice system, focusing on drug sentencing laws that disproportionately impact minorities. The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said that while law enforcement officials generally support many of Obama’s recommendations, local police agencies lack money to implement them.

“The most important areas they touched on are the most expensive,” he said in a phone interview.

Earnest has said Obama wants to sign a major criminal justice bill before the end of the year. The Senate legislation is “a good start,” he said.

Chicago Guns

The president has regularly invoked his time in Chicago as a community organizer when pushing for more lenient punishment for non-violent drug offenders and stricter gun legislation.

Obama’s opponents have pointed to Chicago, which has some of the country’s toughest gun laws, as an example of the futility of further restrictions on firearms.

The city has seen gun violence spike in recent years, with more than 400 homicides in 2015, according to a tally by the Chicago Tribune. Some of the shootings took place near Obama’s old neighborhood on the city’s South Side.

Earnest said Chicago is “a pretty good illustration” of the need new national gun laws, because people looking to evade local restrictions can buy guns more easily outside the city limits. The White House is studying current laws to determine if Obama can enact new regulations on firearms without congressional action.

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, has said the federal government should use its purchasing power to force major gun manufacturers to increase safety standards. A $580 million Department of Defense contract for new handguns should be used as leverage on the industry, he said in a statement on Friday.

More than 700 vendors are exhibiting at the police conference in Chicago, including gun manufacturers Glock Inc., Beretta USA Corp. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp.

TASER International Inc., which has seen sales of its body- worn police cameras increase after Obama called for more police departments to us the devices, is exhibiting at the conference. The company’s shares rose more than 5 percent on Monday after it announced a partnership with Microsoft for cloud storage of images recorded by body cameras.

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The 'Black Lives Matter' protest movement against excessive use of force by police shouldn't divide law enforcement officers from their communities, and strengthening U.S. gun laws would save the lives of cops as well as citizens, President Barack Obama plans to tell police...
obama, law, enforcement, debate
Wednesday, 28 October 2015 06:59 AM
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