The Obama factor (7)

With the country festering in racial hostility that he has done his best to aggravate, President Obama conducted a gabfest in the White House yesterday. “Obama called the meeting following the killing of five police officers in Dallas in a racially motivated sniper attack,” Jordan Fabian reports in The Hill.

Obama made a statement after the gabfest adjourned. The White House has posted a transcript of his remarks under the rubric of Building Community Trust. In the Obama administration’s big Euphemism family, it’s a kissing cousin of the Building Community Resilience branch in Minnesota.

Obama called the meeting with his task force on 21st century policing, first appointed by him in December 2014. In May 2015 the task force released its report. And that’s not all! It has now released a one-year progress report. The task force works under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s COPS Office, which hosts the reports and related materials here.

The project constitutes an exercise in keeping the lies of the Black Lives Matter crowd alive. Obama is highly resolved that Michael Brown shall not have died in vain.

Here is how Obama summarized the current status of his efforts in this department:

The bad news is, as we saw so painfully this week, that this is really a hard job. We’re not there yet. We’re not even close to being there yet, where we want to be. We’re not at a point yet where communities of color feel confident that their police departments are serving them with dignity and respect and equality. And we’re not at the point yet where police departments feel adequately supported at all levels.

So what we’ve done here is to build off the task force report and find out what’s working, what’s not, and what more do we have to do in order to bring the country and communities around the country together and make more progress on this front.

And I’ll just characterize a couple of things that have been identified. And I want to emphasize that there’s still a diversity of views around this table. That was by design. We have police chiefs and representatives of rank-and-file law enforcement. We’ve got people who have been protesting just this week. And we have sociologists, civil rights attorneys, governors, state legislators. So as you might expect, not everybody agrees on everything. But here are the buckets of issues that everybody identified as worthy of more work, more study, and ultimately more action.

Number one, we’re going to have to do more work together in thinking about how we can build confidence that after police officers have used force, and particularly deadly force, that there is confidence in how the investigation takes place and that justice is done.

Now, that’s a complicated piece of work, but it’s going to involve engaging with police departments and state’s attorneys, as well as communities themselves, and potentially shaping a set of best practices that ensure when something happens that people feel like it’s being investigated effectively and fairly both for the police officer, but also for the families of those who’ve been affected. And so one of our charges I think is to try to find effective ways to do that.

Second is continuing work on working with police departments around training — which we emphasized in the initial task force — but also hiring, recruitment. And one of the themes that came from a number of people is how do we support police officers not just in terms of eliminating bias, but also dealing with the stresses and strains of the job so that they have the capacity to interact with communities and deescalate more effectively, and are there ways for us to resource that. So that was bucket number two.

Third is data. Although we put forward a data initiative that is beginning to gather information about what’s happening in police departments so that they can do a better job managing their force and ensure that what they’re doing is effective, and so that communities can feel confident that they know what’s happening with police forces, generally speaking, police departments, sheriff departments, law enforcement offices around the country either don’t have good data collection or it’s just in a form that people can’t use.

Now, I don’t necessarily fault all the departments on that because I know here in the federal government, with all the resources we have, it has been really hard to just get our data systems and IT and all that set up.

Obama expressed how “encouraged” he was he felt from “the conversation.” As long he’s running it, he’s going to be encouraged:

“To the American people,” he said, “I want you to know that this is a pretty representative group of the folks who’ve been involved in the debate in this issue and have practical knowledge and are thinking each and every day about how we can prevent the tragedies we saw in Baton Rouge and in Minnesota and in Dallas.” Even if we only know the relevant facts involving the tragedy in Dallas, he wants us to know they’re thinking.

And so on.

Wrapping things up, Obama observed: “And sadly, because this is a huge country that is very diverse and we have a lot of police departments, I think it is fair to say that we will see more tension in police — between police and communities this month, next month, next year, for quite some time.” Obama has done everything within his power to see to that.

Quotable quote: “And one of the things that I encouraged everybody here to do was to try to be as thoughtful and respectful outside of this room as folks were to each other during the course of this conversation, because I think the American people would feel more encouraged.”

Responses