CHICAGO: US President Barack Obama offered praise for America’s embattled police chiefs Tuesday, appearing before them to smooth ties strained amid recent racial tensions.
Voicing thanks for the role that cops play in keeping America safe, Obama eulogized a New York cop killed in the line of duty and called for police to have adequate resources.
“I want to start by saying on behalf of the American people, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Obama said. “This country is safer because of your efforts.”
Obama’s address comes as the deaths of a string of black men in police custody has inflamed tensions in cities across the United States, leading to accusations of police brutality and racism.
The president has raised the ire of some by suggesting that racism is ingrained in too many police departments.
His FBI director James Comey recently raised eyebrows in the White House by suggesting that the increased public scrutiny — after the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — meant police were scared to do their job.
Speaking in his hometown of Chicago, Obama reiterated that discrimination was real, recounting the times he was pulled over “before having a motorcade.”
“The data shows that this is not an aberration,” he said, insisting that discrimination against black and Latino Americans was real and well documented.
But, he said, too often police officers were “scapegoated.”
Obama hopes to pass substantial criminal justice reform before he leaves office in early 2017.
On both issues, support from the police brass may prove essential.
Obama sought to show that his administration was working to make police safer, from providing bulletproof vests to retaining or hiring 10,000 officers.
He also framed efforts to curb US gun ownership as a measure that would benefit law enforcement.
It is bad enough, he said, responding to domestic incident, without citizens being “armed to the teeth.”
He received warm applause for a call for nationwide background checks and curbs on assault rifles.
“Guns do not make you or your communities safer,” he said. AFP