Tags: Barack Obama | Ferguson in Crisis | obama | police | race | personal

Obama: Police Race Relations 'Personal for Me'

Monday, 08 December 2014 08:14 PM

President Barack Obama said he feels responsible to address blacks' grievances about mistreatment by police because of his position and his own experiences as a young man.

Obama said when he listened to complaints last week from young activists about unwarranted stops and harassment by police, "my mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20."

The issue, he added, is "personal for me because of who I am and who Michelle is, and who our families' members are and what our experiences are."

Obama, 53, the nation's first black president, didn't elaborate on his experiences with police in his remarks during an interview with BET Networks recorded Dec. 5 and aired today.

He spoke to the network after demonstrations around the country over the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Local grand juries declined to indict the officers involved in those incidents.

Obama, who last week named a task force to recommend steps to reduce tensions between police departments and minority communities, raised the possibility of cuts in federal aid to agencies that fail to make improvements.

"That becomes an important part of the leverage we can exert," Obama said.

Peaceful Protests

He also offered an endorsement of peaceful demonstrations as critical to keeping the country's attention focused on unfair police conduct. Violent protests, he said, are "counterproductive."

"As long as they're peaceful, I think they're necessary," Obama said. "A country's conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience."

Though many Americans are "troubled" by incidents, particularly the video of unarmed man in a choke hold during a confrontation with officers in New York, "Attention spans move on, right?" Obama said. Fresh protest "reminds the society this is not yet done."

The turmoil has once again laid bare racial tensions in the country.

Racial Tensions

A majority of Americans, 53 percent, say relations between white and black communities have deteriorated since Obama took office, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll taken Dec. 3-5.

The protests were triggered last month after a Missouri grand jury declined to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The demonstrations widened when a grand jury on New York's Staten Island declined to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six.

The Justice Department is conducting civil-rights investigations of both incidents. Attorney General Eric Holder also said last week the department had determined that police in Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by a police officer last month while holding a replica gun, had engaged in a pattern of "unreasonable and unnecessary use of force" between 2010 and 2013.

Racial Profiling

Holder issued new rules today that expand restrictions on racial and other forms of profiling by federal law enforcement officers.

Racial profiling has been a divisive issue for decades, and authorities have long tried to find ways to curb police and federal agents from using race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation in deciding whether to target people for traffic stops, searches or other actions.

Despite pressure for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, it has taken the Justice Department five years to update the rules.

The new Justice Department guidance doesn't apply to state and local forces unless they are part of a task force with federal authorities. The policy also won't apply to security screening at airports, to interdiction efforts near the borders, or to Secret Service protective activities.

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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President Barack Obama said he feels responsible to address blacks' grievances about mistreatment by police because of his position and his own experiences as a young man.
obama, police, race, personal
Monday, 08 December 2014 08:14 PM
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