Lest you think the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers last year are a thing of the past, heartening news came from the Obama administration on Monday, as the White House Task Force urged independent police shootings reviews as a part of a report on policing issued to President Obama on Monday. During a meeting with members of the task force, the president said:
The moment is now for us to make these changes. We have a great opportunity coming out of some great conflict and tragedy to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel — rather than being embattled — feel fully supported. We need to seize that opportunity.
The task force made 63 recommendations in its report, a result of extensive efforts over the course of three months. The panel held seven public hearings across the country, hearing testimony from more than 100 people, and collaborated with leaders of groups advocating for the rights of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, veterans, gays, those with disabilities, and others, the Associated Press reported.
The report also recommended an increase in body cameras on law enforcement, though stopped short of calling for its widespread use due to privacy concerns. A co-chair of the task force, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, said Monday:
Any technology we apply, we need to understand its usefulness. But we also need to make sure we’re working within a constitutional framework. Today we’re talking about body cameras, but tomorrow it will be something else.
Other specific recommendations include re-training police forces, more transparency in police departments, and in perhaps one of the more crucial points, the panel suggested that all shootings involving police officers should be reported to the federal government to increase oversight and to hold members of the police department accountable for their actions. Ramsey said:
There’s no reason for us not to have this data available.
Last year, white police officer Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of an unarmed, teenage Brown — and Wilson's subsequent acquittal by a Ferguson grand jury — sparked nationwide protests that sometimes boiled over into violence. Brown's death, and Garner's a month earlier from being held in a stranglehold by a Staten Island cop, incensed the nation and reignited the debate about racism and police brutality.
The Obama administration came under harsh criticism for its response to the incidents, prompting the president to gather a group of law enforcement officials, academics and activists to create a task force evaluating policing tactics in the country. At the Monday meeting, Obama sounded hopeful about the change that could be brought about in the wake of the shootings. He said:
We have a great opportunity coming out of some great conflict and tragedy to really transform how we think about community-law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer.
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