Obama: U.S. ‘not even close’ to bridging racial divide, criminal justice reform

WASHINGTON, President Barack Obama said there has been progress in the administration’s policing task force created after racially motivated protests in Ferguson, Mo., but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

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Obama, in a four-hour meeting with law enforcement, civil rights leaders and members of the Black Lives Matter movement Wednesday, said there has been progress in training, outreach and policy on the local level, such as “systems of accountability” that allow departments to use collected data in a meaningful way. Still, the end game is out of reach, he said.

“We’re not there yet. We’re not even close to being there yet, where we want to be,” he said. “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. ”
Obama, speaking a day after eulogizing five Dallas police officers killed in an attack and following the deaths of two black men shot by police officers, said the meeting produced a list of priorities that will give direction to curtailing violence. He said the 21st Century Policing Task Force, launched in 2014 to improve relations between law enforcement and communiites, alone won’t solve the problems. Instead, progress will be made when local residents feel invested in change, he said.

“There are cultural issues, and there are issues of race in this country, and poverty, and a whole range of problems that will not be solved overnight,” he said. “But what we can do is to set up the kinds of respectful conversations that we’ve had here — not just in Washington, but around the country — so that we institutionalize a process of continually getting better, and holding ourselves accountable, and holding ourselves responsible for getting better.”

Among those at the meeting where National Action Network the Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Cornell Brooks, Black Lives Matter Minnesota activist DeRay McKesson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and National Association of Police Organizations President Michael McHale.

Upi News