WASHINGTON: The fatal police shootings this week of two US black men reveal fault lines in relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and Americans must work together to heal the divisions, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
The deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota have brought the issue of alleged police brutality, especially towards young black men, back to the fore.
A federal civil rights probe has already been opened in the Louisiana case, and the governor of Minnesota has asked for the same in his state.
“All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota,” Obama, the first black US president, said in a statement on Facebook.
“We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss.”
Obama said it was clear the fatal shootings were not “isolated incidents.”
“They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve,” he said.
“To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day,” he added.
US police must reform
After the latest deadly shooting of a black American by police, President Barack Obama said US police departments needed to move more quickly to reform.
Citing a litany of evidence to show that non-white Americans are more likely to be pulled over, searched or shot by police, Obama appealed to white Americans not to see this as a fringe issue.
“This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about,” Obama said in a hastily arranged statement on arrival in Warsaw for a NATO summit.
“All fair minded people should be concerned.”
“It’s incumbent on all of us to say we can do better than this. We are better than this.”
Obama said a series of reforms recommended by the White House last year should be implemented across the country.
“If anything good comes out of these tragedies, my hope is that communities around the country take a look and say, ‘how can we implement these recommendations’.”
“There’s some jurisdictions out there that have adopted these recommendations. There are a whole bunch that have not.”
America’s debate on police use of lethal force, especially against young black men, has been fuelled by a spate of high-profile cases that have occurred across the country.