Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Steps to Demilitarize Local Police Forces

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Community Policing

Source: WH, 5-18-15 

Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Camden, New Jersey

2:42 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, thank you so much.  It is good to be in Camden.  (Applause.)

I want to thank your Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno; your Congressman, Donald Norcross; and your Mayor, Dana Redd, for being here.  Give them all a big round of applause.  (Applause.) I want to thank the outstanding facility, our hosts.  The Salvation Army is doing great work, and the Ray Kroc Center here seems like just a wonderful, wonderful facility.  (Applause.)  So we’re very proud of them.

I want to thank Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson for his outstanding work.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Chief?  There he is.

So I’ve come here to Camden to do something that might have been unthinkable just a few years ago — and that’s to hold you up as a symbol of promise for the nation.  (Applause.)  Now, I don’t want to overstate it.  Obviously Camden has gone through tough times and there are still tough times for a lot of folks here in Camden.  But just a few years ago, this city was written off as dangerous beyond redemption — a city trapped in a downward spiral.  Parents were afraid to let their children play outside.  Drug dealers operated in broad daylight.  There weren’t enough cops to patrol the streets.

So two years ago, the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing.  They doubled the size of the force — while keeping it unionized.  They cut desk jobs in favor of getting more officers out into the streets.  Not just to walk the beat, but to actually get to know the residents — to set up basketball games, to volunteer in schools, to participate in reading programs, to get to know the small businesses in the area.

Now, to be a police officer takes a special kind of courage. And I talked about this on Friday at a memorial for 131 officers who gave their lives to protect communities like this one.  It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.  And when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community — like we’ve seen here in Camden — some really outstanding things can begin to happen.

Violent crime in Camden is down 24 percent.  (Applause.)    Murder is down 47 percent.  (Applause.)  Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 percent.  (Applause.)  The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes.  And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there. (Applause.)  And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust.  (Applause.)  Building trust.

Now, nobody is suggesting that the job is done.  This is still a work in progress.  The Police Chief would be the first one to say it.  So would the Mayor.  Camden and its people still face some very big challenges.  But this city is on to something. You’ve made real progress in just two years.  And that’s why I’m here today — because I want to focus on the fact that other cities across America can make similar progress.

Everything we’ve done over the past six years, whether it’s rescuing the economy, or reforming our schools, or retooling our job training programs, has been in pursuit of one goal, and that’s creating opportunity for all of us, all our kids.  But we know that some communities have the odds stacked against them, and have had the odds stacked against them for a very long time  — in some cases, for decades.  You’ve got rural communities that have chronic poverty.  You have manufacturing communities that got hit hard when plants closed and people lost jobs.  There are not only cities but also suburbs where jobs can be tough to find, and tougher to get to because of development patterns and lack of transportation options.  And folks who do work, they’re working harder than ever, but sometimes don’t feel like they can get ahead.

And in some communities, that sense of unfairness and powerlessness has contributed to dysfunction in those communities.  Communities are like bodies, and if the immunity system is down, they can get sick.  And when communities aren’t vibrant, where people don’t feel a sense of hope and opportunity, then a lot of times that can fuel crime and that can fuel unrest.
We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York.  And it has many causes — from a basic lack of opportunity to some groups feeling unfairly targeted by their police forces. And that means there’s no single solution.  There have to be a lot of different solutions and different approaches that we try.
So one of the things that we did to address these issues was to create a task force on the future of community policing.  And this task force was outstanding because it was made up of all the different stakeholders — we had law enforcement; we had community activists; we had young people.  They held public meetings across the country.  They developed concrete proposals that every community in America can implement to rebuild trust and help law enforcement.

The recommendations were released in March; they were finalized today.  They include everything from enhanced officer training to improving the use of body cameras and other technologies to make sure that police departments are being smart about crime and that there’s enough data for them to be accountable as well.

And we’re trying to support the great work that’s happening at the local level where cities are already responding to these recommendations.  And before I go further, I just want the members of our task force to stand, because they’ve done some outstanding work and they deserve to be acknowledged.  Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, we’ve launched a Police Data Initiative that’s helping Camden and other innovative cities use data to strengthen their work and hold themselves accountable by sharing it with the public.  Departments might track things like incidents of force so that they can identify and handle problems that could otherwise escalate.

Here in Camden, officers deal with some 41 different data systems, which means they have to enter the same information multiple times.  So today, we’ve brought a volunteer, Elite Tech Team, to help — a group of data scientists and software engineers, and tech leaders.  They’re going to work with the police department here to troubleshoot some of the technical challenges so it’s even easier for police departments to do the things they already want to do in helping to track what’s going on in communities, and then also helping to make sure that that data is used effectively to identify where there are trouble spots, where there are problems, are there particular officers that may need additional help, additional training.  All that can be obtained in a really effective, efficient way.

Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.  We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.  It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message.  So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments. (Applause.)

There is other equipment that may be needed in certain cases, but only with proper training.  So we’re going to ensure that departments have what they need, but also that they have the training to use it.

We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us.  The overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair.  They care deeply about their communities.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep them safe.  Their loved ones wait and worry until they come through the door at the end of their shift.  So we should do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can.

And what’s interesting about what Chief Thomson has done, and what’s happening here in Camden, is these new officers — who I have to confess made me feel old — (laughter) — because they all look like they could still be in school.  (Laughter.)  The approach that the Chief has taken in getting them out of their squad cars, into the communities, getting them familiar with the people that they’re serving — they’re enjoying their jobs more because they feel as if, over time, they can have more of an impact, and they’re getting more help from the community because the community has seen them and knows them before there’s a crisis, before there’s an incident.

So it’s not just crisis response.  It’s not after the fact there’s a crime, there’s a dead body, there’s a shooting, and now we’re going to show up.  It’s, we’re here all the time, and hopefully, we can prevent those shootings from happening in the first place.  (Applause.)

But one of the things I also want to focus on is the fact that a lot of the issues that have been raised here, and in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York, goes beyond policing.   We can’t ask the police to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren’t willing to face or do anything about.  (Applause.)

If we as a society don’t do more to expand opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work for it, then we’ll end up seeing conflicts between law enforcement and residents.  If we as a society aren’t willing to deal honestly with issue of race, then we can’t just expect police departments to solve these problems. If communities are being isolated and segregated, without opportunity and without investment and without jobs — if we politicians are simply ramping up long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that end up devastating communities, we can’t then ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community, or kids are growing up without intact households.  (Applause.)

We can’t just focus on the problems when there’s a disturbance — and then cable TV runs it for two or three or four days, and then suddenly we forget about it again, until the next time.  Communities like some poor communities in Camden or my hometown in Chicago, they’re part of America, too.  The kids who grow up here, they’re America’s children.  Just like children everyplace else, they’ve got hopes and they’ve got dreams and they’ve got potential.  And if we’re not investing in them, no matter how good Chief Thomson and the police are doing, these kids are still going to be challenged.  So we’ve all got to step up.  We’ve all got to care about what happens.

Chief Thomson will tell you that his officers read to young children in the communities not just to build positive relationships, but because it’s in the interest of the community to make sure these kids can read — so that they stay in school and graduate ready for college and careers, and become productive members of society.  That’s in his interest not just as a police chief, but also as a citizen of this country, and somebody who grew up in this areas and knows this area.

And that’s why we’ve partnered with cities and states to get tens of thousands more kids access to quality early childhood education.  No matter who they are or where they’re born, they should get a good start in life.  (Applause.)

That’s why we’ve partnered with cities, including Camden, to create what we call Promise Zones — (applause) — where all-hands-on-deck efforts to change the odds for communities start happening because we’re providing job training, and helping to reduce violence, and expanding affordable housing.

It’s why we’re ready to work with folks from both sides of the aisle to reform our criminal justice system.  We all want safety, and we all know how pernicious the drug culture can be in undermining communities.  But this massive trend toward incarceration even of nonviolent drug offenders, and the costs of that trend are crowding out other critical investments that we can make in public safety.  If we’re spending a whole lot of money on prisons, and we don’t have computers or books or enough teachers or sports or music programs in our schools, we are being counterproductive.  It’s not a good strategy.  (Applause.)

And so, in addition to the work we’re doing directly on the criminal justice front, we’re also launching something that we call My Brother’s Keeper — an initiative to ensure that all young people, but with a particular focus on young men of color, have a chance to go as far as their dreams will take them.  (Applause.)  Now, over the coming weeks, members of my Cabinet will be traveling around the country to highlight communities that are doing great work to improve the lives of their residents.

We know these problems are solvable.  We’re know that we’re not lacking for answers, we’re just lacking political will.  We have to see these problems for what they are — not something that’s happening in some other city to some other people, but something that’s happening in our community, the community of America.  (Applause.)

And we know that change is possible because we’ve seen it in places like this.  We’ve seen it, thanks to people like Officer Virginia Matias.  Where is Virginia?  There she is right there.  (Applause.)  Earlier this year, Vice President Biden and I got to sit with Officer Matias and rank-and-file law enforcement officers from around the country.  And Virginia was talking about how when she was growing up in East Camden, crime was so bad she wasn’t allowed to go to the store alone.  Her mom was once robbed at gunpoint.  When she was 17, her uncle was shot and killed in his own store.  Instead of turning away from Camden, she decided she wanted to become a cop where she grew up to help the community she loved.  (Applause.)  And today, she is a proud member of the Camden County Police Department.  (Applause.)

And she’s a constant presence in the community, getting to know everybody she passes on her beat, even volunteering in a kindergarten.  Officer Matias isn’t just helping to keep her community safe, she’s also a role model for young people of Camden.  And anybody who thinks that things aren’t getting better, she says, “I see kids playing outside, riding bikes in the neighborhood, on their porches having a conversation.  That’s how I measure change.”

That’s how we should all measure change.  I had a chance to meet with some of the young people here who participated in a little roundtable with the officers, and they’re extraordinary young people.  And they’ve got hopes and dreams just like Malia and Sasha, and they’re overcoming some bigger barriers than my children ever had to go through, or I had to go through.  And they’re strong, and they’re focused.

But in talking to them, some of them — the reason they’ve been able to make it and do well is because their parents don’t let them out outside.  Well, you know what, children shouldn’t have to be locked indoors in order to be safe.  That’s not right. Some of them still have concerns about friends of theirs that have taken a wrong path and gotten involved in the streets and drugs.  That’s not the environment we need our kids to be growing up in.

I challenge everybody to get to know some of these young people.  They’re outstanding, and they’re going to do great things in their lives.  (Applause.)  But the point is, is that they shouldn’t have to go through superhuman efforts just to be able to stay in school and go to college and achieve their promise.  That should be the norm.  That should be standard.  And if it isn’t, we’re not doing something right.  We as a society are not doing something right if it isn’t.  (Applause.)

So, ultimately, that’s how we’re going to measure change:  Rising prospects for our kids.  Rising prospects for the neighborhood.  Do our children feel safe on the streets?  Do they feel cared for by their community?  Do they feel like the police departments care about them?  Do they feel as if when they work hard they can succeed?  Do they feel like the country is making an investment in them?  Do they see role models for success?  Are there pathways to jobs that they can identify?  Do they know that if they put in effort, they can make it?  Are they going to be treated fairly regardless of the color of their skin or what their last name is?

It’s pretty basic.  I travel around the country — the one thing that makes me always so optimistic is our children.  And what you realize is everywhere, kids are — kids are kids.  Sometimes they’ll drive you crazy.  (Laughter.)  They’ll make mistakes.  But there’s an inherent goodness in them.  They want to do the right thing.  They just need to be given a chance.

And some of them aren’t going to be lucky enough to have the structures at home that they need — in which case then, we all have to pick up the slack.  And if we do, they’ll respond.  They will.  But we got to feel like that they’re our kids.  We got to see our children in them, in their eyes.  And we haven’t done enough of that.  But we can.

This is a moment of great promise; this is a moment of great hope.  And if we’re seeing such extraordinary improvement in Camden because of the good efforts of a lot of elected officials, and an outstanding police chief and some wonderful police officers, and a community that’s supportive, and nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army and others that are doing some great work — if it’s working here, it can work anywhere. (Applause.)  It can work anywhere.

On the City Hall of Camden you got an inscription by Walt Whitman:  “In a dream, I saw a city invincible.”  In a dream I see a country invincible — if we care enough to make the effort on behalf of every child in this country.  (Applause.)

Camden is showing that it can be done.  I want America to show everybody around the world that it can be done.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
3:05 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts April 29, 2015: Hillary Clinton’s speech on criminal justice reform response to Baltimore Riots at Columbia University

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Hillary Clinton’s speech on criminal justice reform

Source: Vox, 4-29-15

Thank you so much. I am absolutely delighted to be back here at Columbia. I want to thank President Bollinger, Dean Janow, and everyone at the School of International and Public Affairs. It is a special treat to be here with and on behalf of a great leader of this city and our country, David Dinkins. He has made such an indelible impact on New York, and I had the great privilege of working with him as First Lady and then, of course, as a new senator.

When I was just starting out as a senator, David’s door was always open. He and his wonderful wife Joyce were great friends and supporters and good sounding boards about ideas that we wanted to consider to enhance the quality of life and the opportunities for the people of this city. I was pleased to address the Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum in my first year as a senator, and I so appreciated then as I have in the years since David’s generosity with his time and most of all his wisdom. So 14 years later, I’m honored to have this chance, once again, to help celebrate the legacy of one of New York’s greatest public servants.

I’m pleased too that you will have the opportunity after my remarks to hear from such a distinguished panel, to go into more detail about some of the issues that we face. I also know that Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer is here, along with other local and community leaders.

Because surely this is a time when our collective efforts to devise approaches to the problems that still afflict us is more important than ever. Indeed, it is a time for wisdom.

For yet again, the family of a young black man is grieving a life cut short.

Yet again, the streets of an American city are marred by violence. By shattered glass and shouts of anger and shows of force.

Yet again a community is reeling, its fault lines laid bare and its bonds of trust and respect frayed.

Yet again, brave police officers have been attacked in the line of duty.

What we’ve seen in Baltimore should, indeed does, tear at our soul.

And, from Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable.

Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina. Unarmed. In debt. And terrified of spending more time in jail for child support payments he couldn’t afford.

Tamir Rice shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio. Unarmed and just 12 years old.

Eric Garner choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of this city.

And now Freddie Gray. His spine nearly severed while in police custody.

Not only as a mother and a grandmother but as a citizen, a human being, my heart breaks for these young men and their families.

We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.

There is something profoundly wrong when African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.

There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes. And an estimated 1.5 million black men are “missing” from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death.

There is something wrong when more than one out of every three young black men in Baltimore can’t find a job.

There is something wrong when trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve breaks down as far as it has in many of our communities.

We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance. And these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.

We should begin by heeding the pleas of Freddie Gray’s family for peace and unity, echoing the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others in the past years.

Those who are instigating further violence in Baltimore are disrespecting the Gray family and the entire community. They are compounding the tragedy of Freddie Gray’s death and setting back the cause of justice. So the violence has to stop.

But more broadly, let’s remember that everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law. That is what we have to work towards in Baltimore and across our country.

We must urgently begin to rebuild the bonds of trust and respect among Americans. Between police and citizens, yes, but also across society.

Restoring trust in our politics, our press, our markets. Between and among neighbors and even people with whom we disagree politically.

This is so fundamental to who we are as a nation and everything we want to achieve together.

It truly is about how we treat each other and what we value. Making it possible for every American to reach his or her God-given potential—regardless of who you are, where you were born, or who you love.

The inequities that persist in our justice system undermine this shared vision of what America can be and should be.

I learned this firsthand as a young attorney just out of law school—at one of those law schools that will remain nameless here at Columbia. One of my earliest jobs for the Children’s Defense Fund, which David had mentioned—I was so fortunate to work with Marian Wright Edelman as a young lawyer and then serving on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund—was studying the problem then of youth, teenagers, sometimes preteens, incarcerated in adult jails. Then, as director of the University of Arkansas School of Law’s legal aid clinic, I advocated on behalf of prison inmates and poor families.

I saw repeatedly how our legal system can be and all too often is stacked against those who have the least power, who are the most vulnerable.

I saw how families could be and were torn apart by excessive incarceration. I saw the toll on children growing up in homes shattered by poverty and prison.

So, unfortunately, I know these are not new challenges by any means.

In fact they have become even more complex and urgent over time. And today they demand fresh thinking and bold action from all of us.

Today there seems to be a growing bipartisan movement for commonsense reforms in our criminal justice systems. Senators as disparate on the political spectrum as Cory Booker and Rand Paul and Dick Durbin and Mike Lee are reaching across the aisle to find ways to work together. It is rare to see Democrats and Republicans agree on anything today. But we’re beginning to agreeing on this: We need to restore balance to our criminal justice system.

Now of course it is not enough just to agree and give speeches about it—we actually have to work together to get the job done.

We need to deliver real reforms that can be felt on our streets, in our courthouses, and our jails and prisons, in communities too long neglected.

Let me touch on two areas in particular where I believe we need to push for more progress.

First, we need smart strategies to fight crime that help restore trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color.

There’s a lot of good work to build on. Across the country, there are so many police officers out there every day inspiring trust and confidence, honorably doing their duty, putting themselves on the line to save lives. There are police departments already deploying creative and effective strategies, demonstrating how we can protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from those examples, build on what works.

We can start by making sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are used to bolster best practices, rather than to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets.

President Obama’s task force on policing gives us a good place to start. Its recommendations offer a roadmap for reform, from training to technology, guided by more and better data.

We should make sure every police department in the country has body cameras to record interactions between officers on patrol and suspects.

That will improve transparency and accountability, it will help protect good people on both sides of the lens. For every tragedy caught on tape, there surely have been many more that remained invisible. Not every problem can be or will be prevented with cameras, but this is a commonsense step we should take.

The President has provided the idea of matching funds to state and local governments investing in body cameras. We should go even further and make this the norm everywhere.

And we should listen to law enforcement leaders who are calling for a renewed focus on working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions.

As your Senator from New York, I supported a greater emphasis on community policing, along with putting more officers on the street to get to know those communities.

David Dinkins was an early pioneer of this policy. His leadership helped lay the foundation for dramatic drops in crime in the years that followed.

And today smart policing in communities that builds relationships, partnerships, and trust makes more sense than ever.

And it shouldn’t be limited just to officers on the beat. It’s an ethic that should extend throughout our criminal justice system. To prosecutors and parole officers. To judges and lawmakers.

We all share a responsibility to help re-stitch the fabric of our neighborhoods and communities.

We also have to be honest about the gaps that exist across our country, the inequality that stalks our streets. Because you cannot talk about smart policing and reforming the criminal justice system if you also don’t talk about what’s needed to provide economic opportunity, better educational chances for young people, more support to families so they can do the best jobs they are capable of doing to help support their own children.

Today I saw an article on the front page of USA Today that really struck me, written by a journalist who lives in Baltimore. And here’s what I read three times to make sure I was reading correctly: “At a conference in 2013 at Johns Hopkins University, Vice Provost Jonathan Bagger pointed out that only six miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Hollins Market.

But there is a 20-year difference in the average life expectancy.” We have learned in the last few years that life expectancy, which is a measure of the quality of life in communities and countries, manifests the same inequality that we see in so many other parts of our society.

Women—white women without high school education—are losing life expectancy. Black men and black women are seeing their life expectancy goes down in so many parts of our country.

This may not grab headlines, although I was glad to see it on the front page of USA Today. But it tells us more than I think we can bear about what we are up against.

We need to start understanding how important it is to care for every single child as though that child were our own.

David and I started our conversation this morning talking about our grandchildren; now his are considerably older than mine. But it was not just two longtime friends catching up with each other. It was so clearly sharing what is most important to us, as it is to families everywhere in our country.

So I don’t want the discussion about criminal justice, smart policing, to be siloed and to permit discussions and arguments and debates about it to only talk about that. The conversation needs to be much broader. Because that is a symptom, not a cause, of what ails us today.

The second area where we need to chart a new course is how we approach punishment and prison.

It’s a stark fact that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25 percent of the world’s total prison population. The numbers today are much higher than they were 30, 40 years ago, despite the fact that crime is at historic lows.

Of the more than 2 million Americans incarcerated today, a significant percentage are low-level offenders: people held for violating parole or minor drug crimes, or who are simply awaiting trial in backlogged courts.

Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime. But it is does a lot to tear apart families and communities.

One in every 28 children now has a parent in prison. Think about what that means for those children.

When we talk about one and a half million missing African American men, we’re talking about missing husbands, missing fathers, missing brothers.

They’re not there to look after their children or bring home a paycheck. And the consequences are profound.

Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty.

And it’s not just families trying to stay afloat with one parent behind bars. Of the 600,000 prisoners who reenter society each year, roughly 60 percent face long-term unemployment.

And for all this, taxpayers are paying about $80 billion a year to keep so many people in prison.

The price of incarcerating a single inmate is often more than $30,000 per year—and up to $60,000 in some states. That’s the salary of a teacher or police officer.

One year in a New Jersey state prison costs $44,000—more than the annual tuition at Princeton.

If the United States brought our correctional expenditures back in line with where they were several decades ago, we’d save an estimated $28 billion a year. And I believe we would not be less safe. You can pay a lot of police officers and nurses and others with $28 billion to help us deal with the pipeline issues.

It’s time to change our approach. It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration. We need a true national debate about how to reduce our prison population while keeping our communities safe.

I don’t know all the answers. That’s why I’m here—to ask all the smart people in Columbia and New York to start thinking this through with me. I know we should work together to pursue together to pursue alternative punishments for low-level offenders. They do have to be in some way registered in the criminal justice system, but we don’t want that to be a fast track to long-term criminal activity, we don’t want to create another “incarceration generation.”

I’ve been encouraged to see changes that I supported as Senator to reduce the unjust federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes finally become law.

And last year, the Sentencing Commission reduced recommended prison terms for some drug crimes.

President Obama and former Attorney General Holder have led the way with important additional steps. And I am looking forward to our new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, carrying this work forward.

There are other measures that I and so many others have championed to reform arbitrary mandatory minimum sentences are long overdue.

We also need probation and drug diversion programs to deal swiftly with violations, while allowing low-level offenders who stay clean and stay out of trouble to stay out of prison. I’ve seen the positive effects of specialized drug courts and juvenile programs work to the betterment of individuals and communities. And please, please, let us put mental health back at the top of our national agenda.

You and I know that the promise of de-institutionalizing those in mental health facilities was supposed to be followed by the creation of community-based treatment centers. Well, we got half of that equation—but not the other half. Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions.

I have to tell you I was somewhat surprised in both Iowa and New Hampshire to be asked so many questions about mental health. “What are we going to do with people who need help for substance abuse or mental illness?” “What are we going to do when the remaining facilities are being shut down for budget reasons?” “What are we going to do when hospitals don’t really get reimbursed for providing the kind of emergency care that is needed for mental health patients?”

It’s not just a problem in our cities. There’s a quiet epidemic of substance abuse sweeping small-town and rural America as well. We have to do more and finally get serious about treatment.

I’ll be talking about all of this in the months to come, offering new solutions to protect and strengthen our families and communities.

I know in a time when we’re afflicted by short-termism, we’re not looking over the horizon for the investments that we need to make in our fellow citizens, in our children. So I’m well aware that progress will not be easy, despite the emerging bipartisan consensus for certain reforms. And that we will have to overcome deep divisions and try to begin to replenish our depleted reservoirs of trust.

But I am convinced, as the congenital optimist I must be to live my life, that we can rise to this challenge. We can heal our wounds. We can restore balance to our justice system and respect in our communities. And we can make sure that we take actions that are going to make a difference in the lives of those who for too long have been marginalized and forgotten.

Let’s protect the rights of all our people. Let’s take on the broader inequities in our society. You can’t separate out the unrest we see in the streets from the cycles of poverty and despair that hollow out those neighborhoods.

Despite all the progress we’ve made in this country lifting people up—and it has been extraordinary—too many of our fellow citizens are still left out.

Twenty-five years ago, in his inaugural address as Mayor, David Dinkins warned of leaving “too many lost amidst the wealth and grandeur that surrounds us.”

Today, his words and the emotion behind them ring truer than ever. You don’t have to look too far from this magnificent hall to find children still living in poverty or trapped in failing schools. Families who work hard but can’t afford the rising prices in their neighborhood.

Mothers and fathers who fear for their sons’ safety when they go off to school—or just to go buy a pack of Skittles.

These challenges are all woven together. And they all must be tackled together.

Our goal must truly be inclusive and lasting prosperity that’s measured by how many families get ahead and stay ahead…

How many children climb out of poverty and stay out of prison…

How many young people can go to college without breaking the bank…

How many new immigrants can start small businesses …

How many parents can get good jobs that allow them to balance the demands of work and family.

That’s how we should measure prosperity. With all due respect, that is a far better measurement than the size of the bonuses handed out in downtown office buildings.

Now even in the most painful times like those we are seeing in Baltimore …

When parents fear for their children…

When smoke fills the skies above our cities…

When police officers are assaulted…

Even then—especially then—let’s remember the aspirations and values that unite us all: That every person should have the opportunity to succeed. That no one is disposable. That every life matters.

So yes, Mayor Dinkins. This is a time for wisdom.

A time for honesty about race and justice in America.

And, yes, a time for reform.

David Dinkins is a leader we can look to. We know what he stood for. Let us take the challenge and example he presents and think about what we must do to make sure that this country we love—this city we live in—are both good and great.

And please join me in saying a prayer for the family of Freddie Gray, and all the men whose names we know and those we don’t who have lost their lives unnecessarily and tragically. And in particular today, include in that prayer the people of Baltimore and our beloved country.

Thank you all very much.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots

Source: WH, 4-28-15

With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.

And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.

We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades.

And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

News Headlines December 27, 2014: Three pit bull mixes attack three-year-old girl in Arkansas, she may not survive

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Three pit bull mixes attack three-year-old girl in Arkansas, she may not survive

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The holidays seemed to have brought a number of animal attacks, one of the latest was in Smackover Arkansas on Tuesday evening, Dec. 23, 2014 when three pit-bull mixes where accidentally released from a closed room and then they…READ MORE
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