Weekly Address: President Obama – Continuing Work To Improve Community Policing

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President spoke about the work the Administration is doing to enhance trust between communities and law enforcement in the year since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. In May, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released their final report setting out concrete proposals to build trust and enhance public safety. And across America local leaders are working to put these ideas into action in their communities. The President noted that while progress is being made, these issues go beyond policing, which is why the Administration is committed to achieving broader reforms to the criminal justice system and to making new investments in our children and their future.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Continuing Work To Improve Community Policing

Remarks of President Barack Obama, Weekly Address, The White House August 15, 2015

Hi everybody. It’s now been a year since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. His death—along with the events in Cleveland, Staten Island, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and other communities—sparked protests and soul searching all across our country. Over the past year, we’ve come to see, more clearly than ever, the frustration in many communities of color and the feeling that our laws can be applied unevenly.

After Ferguson, I said that we had to face these issues squarely. I convened a task force on community policing to find commonsense steps that can help us drive down crime and build up trust and cooperation between communities and police, who put their lives on the line every single day to help keep us safe. And I’ve met personally with rank and file officers to hear their ideas.

In May, this task force made up of police officers, activists and academics proposed 59 recommendations – everything from how we can make better use of data and technology, to how we train police officers, to how law enforcement engages with our schools. And we’ve been working with communities across America to put these ideas into action.

Dozens of police departments are now sharing more data with the public, including on citations, stops and searches, and shootings involving law enforcement. We’ve brought together leaders from across the country to explore alternatives to incarceration. The Justice Department has begun pilot programs to help police use body cameras and collect data on the use of force. This fall, the department will award more than $160 million in grants to support law enforcement and community organizations that are working to improve policing. And all across the country – from states like Illinois and Ohio, to cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Nashville – local leaders are working to implement the task force recommendations in a way that works for their communities.

So we’ve made progress. And we’ll keep at it. But let’s be clear: the issues raised over the past year aren’t new, and they won’t be solved by policing alone. We simply can’t ask our police to contain and control issues that the rest of us aren’t willing to address—as a society. That starts with reforming a criminal justice system that too often is a pipeline from inadequate schools to overcrowded jails, wreaking havoc on communities and families all across the country. So we need Congress to reform our federal sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders. We need to keep working to help more prisoners take steps to turn their lives around so they can contribute to their communities after they’ve served their time.

More broadly, we need to truly invest in our children and our communities so that more young people see a better path for their lives. That means investing in early childhood education, job training, pathways to college. It means dealing honestly with issues of race, poverty, and class that leave too many communities feeling isolated and segregated from greater opportunity. It means expanding that opportunity to every American willing to work for it, no matter what zip code they were born into.

Because, in the end, that’s always been the promise of America. And that’s what I’ll keep working for every single day that I’m President. Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.

Bolding added.

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10 Comments

  1. President Obama:

    … the issues raised over the past year aren’t new, and they won’t be solved by policing alone. We simply can’t ask our police to contain and control issues that the rest of us aren’t willing to address—as a society. […]

    … It means dealing honestly with issues of race, poverty, and class that leave too many communities feeling isolated and segregated from greater opportunity. It means expanding that opportunity to every American willing to work for it, no matter what zip code they were born into.

    We must address NOW what the President calls “the frustration in many communities of color and the feeling that our laws can be applied unevenly”. #BlackLivesMatter

    • The president talked about expanding “opportunity to every American willing to work for it, no matter what zip code they were born into”.

      From ThinkProgress: How A Poor Neighborhood Becomes A Trap

      The daily experience of poverty has gotten worse for many people in America over the last decade. That’s because the poor are getting hemmed into areas of more and more concentrated poverty while people of better means flee elsewhere.

      Between 1990 and 2000, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods, with a poverty rate of 40 percent or more, actually declined by more than a quarter, according to a recent report from Paul Jargowsky at The Century Foundation. But since then, they’ve started rising again. The number of high-poverty census tracts jumped by a third before the economic recession even began, from 2005 to 2009, and then increased by another 1,100 neighborhoods between 2009 and 2013. Overall, they’ve increased 76 percent since 2000.

      That means more people are in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. The populations of high-poverty neighborhoods grew by 91 percent, increasing to 13.8 million people, the highest number of residents ever recorded. And today, just under 15 percent of the poor live in these neighborhoods, up from about 10 percent in 2000. […]

      This is the experience generally of living in a high-poverty neighborhood. “All of the challenges that come with living in poverty become amplified,” Sharkey said. And it’s not because the people in those neighborhoods have some sort of ingrained character flaws; it’s because of that downward spiral. Businesses pull up investments and are reluctant to make new ones. Important community institutions, such as churches and after school programs, get eroded. Schools deteriorate. Violence can emerge.

      This all has consequences for the residents, ones they wouldn’t necessarily face in a more affluent area even with the same incomes. Academic performance, job opportunities, and health outcomes are all lower in these areas even when controlling for families’ individual poverty. “All of that combines to create a really different world,” said Jargowsky, the author of the study.

      It appears that it will take some political will to fix this:

      Jargowsky says we know what is required if we want to reverse the trend in concentrated poverty. “We shouldn’t pretend we don’t know what the problem is. We know what the problem is,” he said. “We’re building an architecture of segregation.”

  2. The President will be going to Alaska later this month! No, not to see Russia from Sarah Palin’s front door, but for this:

    President Obama will travel to Alaska and shine a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face, it is being driven by human activity, and it is disrupting Americans’ lives right now.

  3. Last night at the Iowa Wing Ding Dinner, Hillary Clinton – not too concerned about Emailghaziiiiii!!

    “You may have seen I recently launched a Snapchat account,” she said in a hushed voice, quieting the crowd intently: “I love it: Those messages disappear all by themselves….”

  4. Here is a link to the MSNBC video with the Wing Ding speeches: Hillary Clinton, following by Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley.
    Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley attend the “Wing Ding” dinner fundraising event in Clear Lake, Iowa.
    (Hillary Clinton at 1:10, Bernie Sanders at 1:35, Martin O’Malley at 2:02, eating and chanting in between)

    Coverage of the speeches: from the Associated Press and from Politico.

  5. In the News: Animus River reopens to boating

    Officials in Colorado on Friday reopened the Animas River to boating about a week after 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater laced with heavy metals spilled into the popular waterway.

    La Plata County, which includes the city of Durango, announced that kayakers, rafters and tubers could go back on the river. It had closed on Aug. 6, a day after federal and contract workers accidentally unleashed the plume of mustard-yellow muck from the idled Gold King Mine. […]

    The shocking color, caused by iron, is gone, and the state has already cleared the water for use by water treatment plants. However, it’s not known how much danger remains from other heavy metals, such as lead, that are trapped in the riverbed.

  6. President Obama wrote a Letter to the Editor to the NY Times this past week:

    I was inspired to read about unsung American heroes like Rosanell Eaton in Jim Rutenberg’s ‘‘A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.’’

    ‘‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union. …’’ It’s a cruel irony that the words that set our democracy in motion were used as part of the so-called literacy test designed to deny Rosanell and so many other African-Americans the right to vote. Yet more than 70 years ago, as she defiantly delivered the Preamble to our Constitution, Rosanell also reaffirmed its fundamental truth. What makes our country great is not that we are perfect, but that with time, courage and effort, we can become more perfect. What makes America special is our capacity to change.

    Nearly three decades after Rosanell testified to her unbroken faith in this country, that faith was vindicated. The Voting Rights Act put an end to literacy tests and other forms of discrimination, helping to close the gap between our promise that all of us are created equal and our long history of denying some of us the right to vote. The impact was immediate, and profound — the percentage of African-Americans registered to vote skyrocketed in the years after the Voting Rights Act was passed.

    But as Rutenberg chronicles, from the moment the ink was dry on the Voting Rights Act, there has been a concentrated effort to undermine this historic law and turn back the clock on its progress. His article puts the recent push to restrict Americans’ voting rights in its proper context. These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act. Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.

    I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place. It is now up to us to continue those efforts. Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves.

    Rosanell is now 94 years old. She has not given up. She’s still marching. She’s still fighting to make real the promise of America. She still believes that We the People have the awesome power to make our union more perfect. And if we join her, we, too, can reaffirm the fundamental truth of the words Rosanell recited.

    President Barack Obama, Washington

    A North Carolina newspaper, The News & Observerl adds more context:

    Rosanell Eaton, a 94-year-old Franklin County resident who had to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution to three county registrars in the 1940s to be eligible to vote, got a special mention this week from the U.S. president.

    President Barack Obama described his admiration for Eaton in a letter to the editor of The New York Times after the magazine’s Aug. 2 article about a 50-year campaign to dismantle protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[…]

    Eaton, one of the N.C. plaintiffs challenging the 2013 election law overhaul in North Carolina, also was arrested at the N.C. Legislative Building on June 24, 2013, as part of the “Moral Monday” movement challenging the voting law changes and other key pieces of the new Republican platform in this state. The charges were eventually dismissed.

    Now Eaton and others involved with the lawsuit await a decision from U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who heard arguments last month in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom on key pieces of the 2013 overhaul.

  7. In the News: Coffee crops at risk …

    For Tanzania’s coffee farmers, climate change is a buzz kill

    Over the last 60 years, rising nighttime temperatures have taken a toll on coffee production in this remote corner of Africa, reducing yields by roughly half. Countries throughout East Africa and other coffee growing regions around the world are likewise expected to experience reduced yields if current trends continue. As the world feels the effects of global warming more acutely, coffee farmers, the vast majority of whom live on razor thin margins, are likely to be among the hardest hit. […]

    As ubiquitous as coffee has become (worldwide, caffeine lovers drink 1.6 to 2.25 billion cups every day), few consumers may realize the scale of the global industry. Coffee is second only to oil as the world’s most traded commodity, surpassing others such as natural gas and gold. Annually, the coffee trade is valued at $100 billion. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, 80 percent of the world’s coffee is grown by 25 million small farmers and cultivation of the plant generates a livelihood for an additional 100 million people in countries where it is grown.

  8. The largely untold story of the Unangax: Alaska’s Unangax work to preserve culture quashed by WWII internment

    Harriet Hope’s family was last together in one place at the dawn of World War Two, when she was five years old.

    In 1942, Hope was one of nearly 900 indigenous Unangax that were given only hours of notice to pack one suitcase and leave their homes in Alaska’s Aleutian and Pribilof islands. Without any choice or indication of where they were going, they were put onto crowded ships by the United States military and sent to squalid internment camps in the then-territory’s southeastern rainforests. […]

    In 1945 the U.S. resettled the last interned Unangax. At least 74 people died in the camps, according to the National Parks Service, many from the unsanitary conditions. Many elders, who would have passed on traditions and customs to younger generations, succumbed to disease in the camps, along with the very young.

    Seven decades later, the cultural damage of the internment is still evident and many of the remaining survivors are hesitant to talk about the experience. But even as the number of survivors dwindles, Unangax communities peppered along hundreds of miles of volcanic islands are working to preserve and restore their culture through educational programs geared towards their youngest members.

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