Politics December 1, 2014: Obama issues four-point plan to improve minority police relations after Ferguson

Obama issues four-point plan to improve minority police relations after Ferguson

December 1, 2014, 11:48 PM MST


President Barack Obama announces more executive actions to improve minority police relations, Dec. 1, 2014

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / The White House

President Barack Obama wants to actively do something to curb the wave of police shootings of unarmed African Americans that seems to be plaguing the country. On Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, President Obama hosted three meetings at the White House to determine best and safest way for both parties to police-minority groups in the country. After the meetings, the president announced a four-point plan including an executive order that he hoped would ease tensions and make sure there is no question about possible indictments like there was in Ferguson, Missouri. This past week a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, afterward the results unleashed riots in Ferguson and all over the country.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama is preparing more executive actions and is requesting a total of $263 million from Congress for them. The plan involves purchasing “50,000” body cameras for police to wear. The cameras will be worn on the lapels of police officers, and as ABC News noted police and civil rights leaders had praised the cameras to document police interactions properly. Of the money, the president is requesting that Congress appropriate for these new set of executive actions, $75 million will go to the body cameras.

The president is also creating a “task force on police practices,” called the “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” and appointed as the chairs “Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General and George Mason University professor Laurie Robinson.” The task force will create a report due “late February.” They are going to find solutions and ways to “promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.”

The president commissioned a new report and released another report on Monday, entitled “White House Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition.” The report looked at how federal agencies give “military” equipment to law enforcement. The report determined that “tens of thousands” of equipment are transferred each year, only 4 to 5 percent are weapons, the rest office equipment.

Finally, President Obama intends to sign an executive order that will ensure there are uniform guidelines and rules across the government about the transfer and usage of the military equipment to police. The rules will determine which equipment can use by police, require “civilian approval,” proper training, and create a “universal” database” to track the equipment to determine how it is being used by police. The president does not intend to slow down police access to military equipment, but he wants federal agencies to review how they give the military “surplus” equipment to police departments.

President Obama had held three meetings on Monday before the White House announced his plans for the executive actions. The first meeting was with his cabinet; among those in attendance according to CNN were “Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work and acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy Michael Botticelli.”

The second meeting was with “young civil rights leaders,” among them were “representatives from the Ohio Students Association and the Howard University Student Association” whereas CNN noted the topic was “the broader challenges we still face as a nation, including the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.”

The third meeting was with “elected officials, law enforcement officials and community, civil rights and faith leaders.” Among those at this meeting included Rev. Al Sharpton and “representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Council of La Raza, the American Civil Liberties Union.”

President Obama delivered remarks “after the meeting with elected officials, community and faith leaders, and law enforcement officials” about “how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country” President Obama outlined his four-point plan. The president also expressed that “this is not a problem simply of Ferguson, Missouri, this is a problem that is national. It is a solvable problem, but it is one that, unfortunately, spikes after one event and then fades into the background until something else happens. What we need is a sustained conversation in which in each region of the country people are talking about this honestly and then can move forward in a constructive fashion.”

President Obama also promised that it would be different in the future, he will make sure the situation improves; “What I try to describe to people is why this time will be different. And part of the reason, this time, will be different is because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure this time is different. When I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they’ve done everything right. That’s not who we are. And I don’t think that’s who the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to be.”

The day was topped with Attorney General Holder appearing at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA; Holder spoke about Ferguson to civil rights, community, students leaders at a forum Monday evening. There Holder announced the administration would work to end racial profiling “In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement. This will institute rigorous new standards – and robust safeguards – to help end racial profiling, once and for all.”

The church was where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. used to preach. The problems representative in Ferguson shows that King’s civil rights fights are still being fought and despite the election of a two-term African-American president, there is still so much to do for race relations in the country especially the relationship between law enforcement and minorities. Obama concluded his remarks vowed that “in the two years I have to remain as President, I’m going to make sure that we follow through — not to solve every problem, not to tear down every barrier of mistrust that may exist, but to make things better. And that’s how progress is always made in this great country of ours.”


Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.

Politics November 24, 2014: Obama urges calm after grand jury does not indict Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death