President Barack Obama on Monday proposed new funding meant to help improve relations between police departments and minority communities, saying there is a “simmering distrust” between the two groups that extends well beyond the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
The White House has asked for $263 million in funding for police body cameras and training in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The program, which would need congressional approval, would offer a total of $75 million over three years to match state funding for the cameras by 50 percent, helping to pay for more than 50,000 of the devices.
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The announcement came as Obama held a series of meetings with law enforcement personnel, civil rights leaders and Cabinet officials to discuss possible reforms to ease mistrust towards police, particularly in minority communities.
"This is not a problem just of Ferguson, Missouri. This is a national problem," Obama said.
The administration also said Monday that it will not make major changes to a program that transfers military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies, but will instead focus on better oversight, transparency and training to ensure that the equipment is used properly. The president did say he would work to ensure the United States is not building a “militarized culture” in its police forces.
Obama will also announce the creation of a new task force – led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and former Office of Justice Programs AG Laurie Robinson – to prepare recommendations for "21st century policing."
Obama acknowledged the inaction of previously assembled task forces, but pledged to "follow through" in his remaining two years as president.
"This time will be different because the president of the United States is deeply vested in making it different," he said.
— Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty